by Dr. Rey Ty
On Monday, November 15, 2021, an interreligious and intercultural tree planting program took place on the grounds of the Department of Peacebuilding and the Institute of Religion, Culture, and Peace, on the main campus of Payap University. The event started at 2 PM and ended at around 4 pm. In this time of the pandemic, all health precautions were put in place: attendees put on face masks, had access to hand sanitizer and gloves, as well as maintained social distance.
The afternoon program included the following:
- Opening Ecumenical Prayer
- Welcome Remarks
- Cherry Tree Planting
- Walnut Tree Planting
- Interreligious Representatives’ Reflections of Their Scriptures on Nature and Environmental Care
- Student Reflections
- Students Offer Plants to Religious Representatives and Community Members
- Group Photos
The afternoon event started with Rev. Grace Moon of the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA), which is based in the Genesis (Pathomgarn) Building on campus, giving the opening ecumenical prayer. Ajarn Komgrit Wongnam, who represented Payap University President Ajan Apich Insuwan, gave the Welcome Remarks on behalf of the university president.
The participants of the event are very diverse in terms of religion, culture, national origins, and professions, among them were religious leaders, students, faculty, university administrators, staff, expats, and retirees. Religious representatives came from different faith traditions, including Baha’i, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Sikhism. There were Americans, Asians, and Europeans in attendance.
After the welcome remarks, all the attendees went to the plot where the cherry sapling was planted. Each volunteer, of different religions, took turns in shoveling in some garden soil and peat moss onto the new plant. A Buddhist monk and a Muslim imam shared in the planting efforts, as well as a British Anglican priest and a female Thai Hindu monk. The next tree that was planted was a walnut sapling. People of different faiths took turns in shoveling in some garden soil and peat moss onto the walnut sapling. Dr. Le Ngoc Bich Ly, Department of Peacebuilding Chair, Dr. Tony Waters, Institute of Religion, Culture, and Peace Director, Dr. Ken Dobson, and students, among others took turns to shovel some garden soil and sprinkled water on the newly planted saplings.
Thereafter, the religious representatives sat on the presidential table from which each one gave a thoughtful reflection from their own Holy Books about the importance of nature and the environment as well as environmental care and the relationship of human beings with the natural world. The participants of the event heard words of wisdom from different Scriptures about caring for the natural world. The readings from the sacred texts were followed by students offering plants to each representative of the different faith traditions as a symbol of spreading the knowledge, skills, and values of environmentalism to every corner, every culture, and every religion. The original plan was to have a tree planting event in different sites; however, the pandemic changed all that. Group photos were taken after the gift giving. Representing Baha’i were Mr. Satit Photchanatthamrong (Karen Thai) and Teerayoot “Tee” Kulpraiwan (Lanna Thai); Buddhism, Mr. Manit Khanthasima and Thonthep Charoensuksombat who is a novice at Wat Ta Pong; Christianity, Rev. Grace Moon (South Korea) and Rev. Fr. Iain Baxter (U.K.); Hinduism, Swamini Sarveswaran (Thailand); Islam, Ajan Imam Jirachai Srichandorn; and, Sikhism, Mr. Frank and Mrs. Vanitha Sethi. A Muslim Indonesian student in a General Elective (G.E.) class in Truth and Service gave his reflections of the Qur’an on environmental care on behalf of the students.
Afternoon refreshments composed of Thai food, Indian food, Thai coconut and rice desserts, and assorted Thai iced tea drinks were served. In a display of empathetic fellowship, people of different cultures, faiths, and professions mingled when they broke bread together, informally learning from each other about each other, regardless of religion, sex, culture, national origin, and other differences.
Dr. Rey Ty of the Department of Peacebuilding, who served as the master of ceremony for the event, organized this event under the Institute of Religion, Culture, and Peace with a participatory action research grant from the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia (UB) through the Institute for Advanced Study in Asian Cultures and Theologies (IASACT) of the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK). The research paper on this community participatory action research was solicited and accepted for publication in an international academic journal.
Click here to view photos and videos of the event: 2021 11 15: Participatory Action Research on the Environment, Religion & Culture in Thailand