Colombo (AsiaNews) – A “monastic order of trees” to remember how important it is to protect the vegetation and the environment around us. This was the aim of a gathering on June 5, of several Buddhist monks, environmentalists associations and local people in Dehigama, Bibila, Uwa province. At least 1500 people attended a protest march on 65,000 acres slated for deforestation, to clear a site for the Gazelle Ventures sugar factory. To emphasize the urgency of the environmental issue, the monks have lined the trees of the traditional orange tunic and prayed in front of the plants.
Hemantha Withanage, director of the Center for Environmental Justice, one of the organizations present, underlined to AsiaNews: “The ceremony serves to remember the motto ‘Sama Sathekma Bo Sathek! Hama gasakma Bo Gasak ‘, that every animal is sacred, and every tree is sacred. “
The environmentalist explains that the tree dressing ritual is celebrated for the sixth time in Sri Lanka. It originates in Thailand, “where it is used to protect the mother-tree from slaughter and destruction.” The ceremony was attended by the Ven. Badulugammana Sirisumana Thero, head of the Naagala monastery Rajamaha Viharaya in Bibila, Indigenous People Vannilaaththo, Rathugala & Pollebedde Indigenous, Active Buddhist Solidarity for the Environment, People’s Front to Protect People’s Rights in Uva-Wellassa Districts, volunteers and political exponents from the government and opposition.
The first to be “ordained” was a tree near a place of worship in Rathnapura, in the district of Kalutara, against the expansion of a road for a water project. Then it was the turn of a red sandal tree in the town of Badulla; Another 1000 trees in Nilgala; Some shrubs in the Soragune Forest “in an attempt to protect them from destruction for a golf course”; Finally three trees near the Athwelthota Falls.
Hemantha Withanage reports that people participated enthusiastically, offering food and singing hymns. “Although it is a Buddhist ritual – he says – it can be adapted to other religions, such as Christian and Hindu. For example during the ceremony there were also Tamil and Muslims. There are no religious barriers. ” With pride, he concludes by saying that a small conquest has already taken place: “The president should have come to lay the foundation stone of the sugar factory, but he changed his mind seeing the protests of the population.”