PCID Consultor shares experience of tree ordination

Fr. In-gun Joseph Kang, S.J,  a consultor of PCID, is involved in many interreligious activities–particularly with Buddhists–in Cambodia.

He describes a recent experience of a tree ordination ceremony:

“The environmental crisis is a major challenge in Cambodia. Deforestation is increasing every year, and hence the Church in Cambodia tries to implement the call of His Holiness the Pope Francis to care for ‘our common home,’ in collaboration with other religions. On September 1, 2021, Msgr. Enrique [Prefect of the Apostolic Prefecture of Battambang]  invited Catholics, Buddhists, and Muslims to jointly assemble for prayer and reflection on the spirit of Laudato Si. After planting trees in the prefecture’s premises, all participants enjoyed a “tree ordination” ceremony, clad in Buddhist robes.

The ordination of forest trees is not just symbolic. It is effective in preventing illegal logging, because Khmer people believe an ordained tree is sacred, and becomes harmful if it is hurt. Interreligious collaboration for ecological justice and prayerful gatherings for the protection of creation continue in a variety of forms, such as the cultivation of organic farms and protection of community life in forest villages, even during the Covid-pandemic. Msgr. Olivier has also been actively engaged in interfaith cooperation for the care of the environment, especially in the Takaev Province. The Jesuit Service of Cambodia has an ecological team that collaborates with other religions, to empower the local community network and monitor forest crimes in Prey Lang.

Fr Kang is the Coordinator for Buddhist Studies and Dialogue, and Director of East Asia Theological Encounter Program of the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific.