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ARC Home > News and Resources > News archive:

Pagodas become eco-campaigners

May 5 2004:

One of the tree nurseries maintained by monks at Wat Bantheab in Cambodia. In partnership with Mlup Baitong.

Monks in Cambodia and neighbouring countries are taking a leading role in protecting the natural environment: and they are combining forces to do so.

Theravada Buddhist monks and secular NGOs from across the region will be joining together this month for a unique meeting to discuss their experiences in protecting their local environments, and to share ideas for further work together.

Some 150 monks and abbots from all Cambodian provinces as well as Laos, Thailand and Burma will participate in a study and training tour in Kampong Speu and Kampong Thom provinces from May 3-9.

“The forest is our life – by protecting the forest we protect all living things.” Venerable Bun Heng, Cambodia.
They will stay in pagodas that are running active conservation programmes and will see how local monks planted more than 30,000 saplings, started community radio programmes with environmental messages, coordinated water management schemes, and became centres for promoting fuel-efficient stoves.

Then from May 10 to 13 these participants will bring their experiences, knowledge and understandings to a conference in Phnom Penh, at which more than 80 monks as well as 20 representatives of environmental and development NGOs will also be present.

The four-day event will explore such issues as the role of Buddhists in nature, how to communicate effectively to the community through the pagoda and how to create partnerships between secular organisations and religious communities.

The forest has always had rich symbolism in Buddhist teachings - the Buddha was born in the forest and achieved enlightenment under a banyan tree, and forest dwelling and meditation is important to many in the Sangha.
The event is co-hosted by the Cambodian-based conservation NGO, Mlup Baitong and the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC), which is an international charity that works with faith communities to develop programmes to preserve the environment.

”This is a rare gathering of monks and NGOs to discuss conservation parnterships that are mutually beneficial to the monasteries, local communities and NGOs,” said ARC’s senior project manager Joanne Robinson.

She said that although a strong Sangha (monastic community) network already exists, ARC hoped that the conference would also further Sangha network activities in relation to environmental practice and education.

Va Moeurn, Executive Director of Mlup Baitong said the NGO was delighted to be expanding on its existing environmental programmes with the monks in Cambodia. “The participation of monks in this programme has been excellent and it is a valuable step towards achieving our goal of the sustainable use of natural resources in the Cambodia.”

As the monks participating in these and other programmes are showing, the forest is an important place for Buddhists to protect. Venerable Bun Heng, one of the Cambodian participants says, “The forest is our life – by protecting the forest we protect all living things.”

The conference is funded by the World Bank, with additional support from ARC and Mlup Baitong. It is part of a new community initiative being developed internationally by the World Bank, which is looking for new local partners who can bring their own experiences to bear on development projects.

The World Bank aims to reach out beyond the groups with whom they traditionally work and to form partnerships with faith leaders and their communities, to help extend their work as valuable stakeholders in community development.

The conference will be held at the Prekho Vipassana Centre in Takmau, with the opening ritual conducted by Samdech Sangharach Venerable Tep Vong.

Invited press will be welcome to attend. Please contact Sokleap Hap: Telephone +855 (0) 12 831 264 Email: radvocacy@online.com.kh

UK contacts: Martin Palmer. Call +44 (0)161 248 5731 Email:martinp@arcworld.org

SEE CONFERENCE SCHEDULE



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