Social workers from Caritas (Karuna) Myanmar plant trees in Hakha, the capital city of Chin State, on June 19. (Photo courtesy of Karuna Hakha)
Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon joined Catholic social workers and young people to plant trees in a government-reserved forest area on the outskirts of Myanmar’s commercial city.
The Catholic Church’s social arm, Caritas Myanmar, has been actively involved in a tree-planting campaign since June 18, which marked the fourth anniversary of Pope Francis's encyclical Laudato si’ (On Care for Our Common Home).
The pope’s second encyclical called for swift action on climate change, among other issues.
Since 2018, the entire Caritas Myanmar network has been working to organize the campaign at its 16 dioceses across the country.
Its aim is to motivate different stakeholders to shoulder responsibility to eliminate environmental destruction and injustices connected to global climate change.
At the July 6 event, attended by Cardinal Bo and Phyo Min Thein, chief minister of Yangon Division, more than 200 participants planted nearly 2,000 trees at Taikkyi township.
Father Joseph Mg Win, director of the Karuna mission, Yangon, branch of Caritas Myanmar, said the government had provided saplings and reserved an area to plant the trees and the Church would take responsibility for caring for them for the next two years.
Father Mg said his Yangon office had been planting trees since 2017 and had also planted thousands of nursery plants at several villages in Bago Division.
Theresa Kay Zin Phyo, HR officer from Caritas Myanmar's national office in Yangon, said the campaign had been launched as a collective effort of Caritas (Karuna) offices across the country to raise environmental awareness.
“Nowadays, environmental degradation is a huge problem and we have a duty to protect the environment and love the trees and forests. That’s the message we want to convey to future generations,” Kay Zin Phyo told ucanews.com.
She added that some offices had already begun planting trees and others would start doing so in the coming weeks.
Caritas Myanmar has submitted its five-year (2018-22) program of tree planting to government officials in Naypyitaw and the Forestry Department has provided thousands of nursery plants.
Eddie, program manager of Caritas Lashio in northern Shan State, said they planned to plant 1,800 trees on church-owned land in the second week of July in collaboration with some parishes.
Cardinal Bo, who has been outspoken about environmental degradation, delivered a short video message to usher in the 2019 national tree-planting campaign.
In the six-minute video, delivered in both English and Burmese, the cardinal said he was extremely glad the government of Myanmar and its people were launching the mass tree-planting exercise in their motherland.
He said huge forests had been stripped naked — in fact, Myanmar had lost 30 percent of its forests in recent decades, making it one of the planet’s most vulnerable countries for natural disasters.
“Environmental protection should be started by planting millions of trees. Trees are life-giving,” said Cardinal Bo, adding that “millions of people depend on the protection of nature from those who destroy forests and steal from the poor and from future generations.”
The 70-year-old cardinal urged every citizen of Myanmar to plant and care for at least 10 trees in order to truly make the country green again. “Prevent pollution, produce more oxygen and plant more trees,” he said.
Impoverished Myanmar is considered one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to the impacts of climate change.