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"Japan interfaith university project may herald Buddhist dialogue," Ecumenical News International, 16 January 2006

    Ecumenical News International

    Daily News Service
    16 January 2006

    Japan interfaith university project may herald Buddhist dialogue

    ENI-06-0030
    By Hisashi Yukimoto

    Tokyo, 16 January (ENI)--A newly-established union of one Christian and six Buddhist universities in Kyoto is introducing an interfaith exchange programme in April, the first of its type in Japan.
    Professor Katsuhiro Kohara, the secretary general of the Kyoto Graduate Union of Religious Studies (KGURS), said he hoped the initiative would also promote dialogue between the various stands of Buddhism in Japan.
    "There is a significant theological implication in this rising ecumenical opportunity within the Buddhist denominations, as most of them had very little interest in each other and other religions," said Kohara, an expert in Christian thought and comparative religious ethics at Doshisha University in Japan's ancient capital of Kyoto.
    He said the project generated by a call from the Doshisha's Christian graduate school had triggered a significant "ecumenical movement" among the Buddhist graduate schools in Kyoto.
    "I have always felt that an ecumenical movement on such a level is especially necessary in Asia," Kohara added. "I have just put it into practice this time." He continued, "I see it as a challenging task to reinterpret and reorganise the concept, 'ecumenical', which has become a bit worn out, within a Japanese context to connect it to the world."
    The project involves a unit-exchange programme for students from participating institutions. It is also intended to invite religious researchers and leaders from around the world to Kyoto to take part in global interfaith dialogues.
    A symposium to mark the launch of the initiative took place on 7 January at Doshisha University, with the keynote lecture, "Dialogues Among Different Religions", being given by the Japanese critic and writer, Shuichi Kato.
    "We see great significance in establishing a comprehensive academic network that links Kyoto-based graduate schools and educational institutions specialising in religious studies, and in making this network accessible from all over the world, thereby inspiring and encouraging students and researchers in this field both inside and outside of Japan," the KGURS had stated on its English Web site at http://www.kgurs.jp/en/mission.htm.
    The graduate union does not at present include institutions based on the principles of religions other than Christianity and Buddhism. Still, the graduate course of the Doshisha School of Theology has a new interdisciplinary course on monotheistic religions including Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.
    "When Doshisha was established in Kyoto 130 years ago, the Buddhists had strongly hostile feelings about Christianity," Professor Kohara wrote in an article in the Kyoto Shinbun newspaper. "When I think of those days, I feel that we are in a
    quite different age." [428 words]


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