Tree planting this Season of Creation

“Tree planting is not only a good activity for the environment and climate, but it also enhances community spirit, peace, and reconciliation between the two divided groups in our community. It restores positive relationships among us.”

This reflection was shared by a Kayah youth from Myanmar who participated in the joint JRS-JCAP (Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific) project to engage marginal forest communities in growing 40,000 trees in the region. The main goal of the ‘Growing Canopies, Strengthening Communities’ project was to strengthen marginal communities whose survival depends on the sustainability of their natural resources. It was envisioned that such a re-forestation project would develop stronger communities which were less likely to be forcibly displaced by abusive exploitation of natural resources and aggressive development policies.

This ‘Growing Canopies, Strengthening Communities’ initiative inspired us to organize an activity in Singapore which would bring the community together and celebrate the Season of Creation – the annual ecumenical celebration that unites the world’s Christians in prayer and action for our common home. Thus JRS Singapore, in collaboration with the Green Ministry Movement of Church of St Ignatius co-ordinated a tree planting activity on 28th September. This tree planting was part of the “OneMillionTrees Movement” of the National Parks Board (NParks) of Singapore – a nationwide effort to plant a million trees across Singapore over the next few years.

After an opening prayer from Fr Colin Tan SJ, the parish priest of St Ignatius Church, the 44 participants enthusiastically began the task of planting 50 native trees at the state land along Adam Park Road. Fr Colin and Fr Francis Lim SJ, the spiritual director of the Green Movement, led by example and efficiently went about digging up the soil and planting the trees. Many participants were impressed at how adept they were at all forms of ‘pastoral’ work!

Specially equipped with the child-sized tools provided by NParks, several young participants also helped with the planting. It took more than 1 pair of hands to plant each tree, but with some co-operation and teamwork, the 50 trees were planted in about an hour and a half. Long-time JRS volunteer David Lau who had first mooted the tree planting activity to JRS volunteers enthused, “Never have I thought that a simple tree planting activity could spark so much enthusiasm among the young and old… and even the little children who joined us! Every single one sweated but they were smiling, for they know it was a meaningful activity and that they have made a small contribution towards caring for our ‘common home’. Because of the fantastic spirit that I saw I cannot but help to look forward to the next activity.”

Beyond simply beautifying our island with more trees, JRS hopes that such activities will touch the hearts of all volunteers and stir in them the desire to work towards building a more just and beautiful world for all of God’s creation.