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Cambodian Monks Join Efforts to Preserve the Cardamoms

August 10 2007:

Launch ceremony in the Cardamoms. Photo Wayne McCallum/CI.

Deep in the heart of Cambodia’s Central Cardamom Mountains, monks and conservationists are joining together to protect the region’s endangered flora and fauna. Local monks in the commune of Russei Chrum have joined with Conservation International (CI) in a project merging Buddhist teachings and environmental education.

Under the guidance of the Association of Buddhists for the Environment (ABE)Association of Buddhists for the Environment (ABE), which arose from ARC’s work and which ARC continues to help fund, nine monks from the Cardamoms received training this year to take the conservation message to surrounding communities.

The newly trained monks will participate in a number of educational initiatives, including forest and wildlife blessing ceremonies, as well as dhammyietra, or ‘spiritual possessions’ which involves them taking ceremonial walks through villages offering messages of compassion for people and the environment.

“This is a unique approach to conservation. By highlighting the links between the local environment and Buddhist teachings, we hope to gain further support for our conservation initiatives in the Central Cardamoms,” said Wayne McCallum, CI’s community engagement advisor in Cambodia.

It is because of the excellence of the ABE’s work in other provinces that CI was able to approach them for collaboration in the Cardamoms.

Ven.Sopheap makes an offering for the success of the ABE/CI project. Photo Wayne McCallum/CI
The Launch

On August 2, a launch ceremony was held at the Russei Chrum pagoda, with commune heads and villagers in attendance. Venerable Hiek Sopheap, the Executive director of the ABE, blessed the project and informed villagers of the importance of the environment in Buddhist dharma, or teachings.

“The Buddha received enlightenment in the forest, he spent much of his time in the forest; many dharma tell us of the importance of reverence for wildlife. For Buddhists the forest and its animals must be protected and treated with respect,” Ven. Sopheap said.

The project will run for 12 months and it is hoped to expand it across the wider Cardamoms in the future.

The Central Cardamoms

The Central Cardamoms form the largest remaining contiguous rainforest in mainland SE Asia and are home to a number of animals that have disappeared from the rest of the region, including Asian elephants, Siamese crocodiles and clouded leopard. Since 2002, CI has worked with the government’s Forestry Administration to protect the region from forest destruction and illegal wildlife hunting. The new initiative with the ABE is the first coordinated attempt to integrate conservation and Buddhism in the Cardamoms.

Links

Link here for the ABE's Sangha Network website.

Link here to learn more about CI's work in Cambodia.

Link here for a story about the ABE winning Audience Choice Award in 2007 in the Cambodian Environmental Film Festival.

Link here to learn about the Mlup Baitong NGO working with monks on environmental issues in remote and threatened areas of Cambodia. This project was one of the ARC and WWF Sacred Gifts in 2000.



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