Updated: September 10, 2021 02:32 PM GMT
Catholics in Cambodia have joined hands with Buddhists to strengthen dialogue, fraternity and interfaith relations as they observe the month-long Season of Creation.
As part of the bonding, Catholic priests and Buddhists monks have started to meet up and plant trees together beginning from Sept. 1, the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, reports the Vatican’s Fides news agency.
The Season of Creation is an annual Christian event that runs from Sept. 1 to Oct. 4, when some 2.2 billion Christians unite, pray and act to care for God’s creation and the common home, the earth. This year’s theme is “Restoring Our Common Home.”
The Jesuit prelate invited the faithful in Battambang, about 300 kilometers northwest of Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, to celebrate the season with the spirit of Laudato Si', the groundbreaking 2015 encyclical of Pope Francis where he called on people to care for their common home.
Monsignor Figaredo said that "we live the joyful experience of collaborating with Buddhist monks for the good of the environment, of society, side by side, united for a better future."
Even though we have different faiths, nationalities, ethnic groups and cultures, we are human beings, all called to work together for unity and solidarity
For five years, Catholics and Buddhists have taken this initiative to take care of the territory and to give an example to all citizens, of any religious creed, he said, adding that it is important to pass on a similar commitment to the younger generation.
"It is a question of love for life: if we love our life and that of our neighbor, we must protect and take care of the environment as it is a gift we have received from God, it is the work of his hands," he said.
"Even though we have different faiths, nationalities, ethnic groups and cultures, we are human beings, all called to work together for unity and solidarity."
Gaspar da Cruz, a Portuguese friar of the Dominican Order, brought the Catholic faith to Cambodia in 1555-56, according to church sources, but he didn’t succeed much in converting people to Christianity.
Catholicism almost withered away due to deadly political upheavals, civil war and the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime (1975-79) when an estimated 1.5 to 2 million people, or about 25 percent of the population of Cambodia, were killed by political executions, disease, hunger and forced labor.
Missionaries rebuilt the Church from ashes when they returned in the early 1990s following the Paris Agreement that marked the end of the civil war.
Today Cambodia has some 20,000 Catholics, accounting for just 0.13 percent of some 16 million people. It has no dioceses but three ecclesiastical jurisdictions — one apostolic vicariate and two apostolic prefectures.