06/05/2012, 00.00
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Environmentalist Capuchin friar wins Kalpataru Award

by Mathias Hariyadi
Fr Samuel Onton Sidin receives the prize from the hands of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for promoting reforestation and conservation programmes. Sunshine House has an area for prayer. Two rules must be respected: no bird shooting and no tree cutting.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Fr Samuel Onton Sidin, an Indonesian priest and Capuchin friar, won the Kalpataru Award, a top environmental prize. Through the 'Sunshine House' (Rumah Pelangi in Indonesian), he promoted high profile reforestation and conservation programmes, especially in Kabu Raya District, West Kalimantan Regency (province), where he planted tall trees and rejuvenated the area with go-green activities. Fr Sidin received the award yesterday after years of work behind the scene from President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at the presidential palace in Jakarta.

Today is World Environment Day. In Indonesia, a developing nation focused on economic development, awareness of green issues and the ecology is growing. The Kalpataru Award is a prestigious annual event sponsored by the state that recognises the contribution of real heroes in the fight to protect nature.

Inside Sunshine Home, in Kubu Raya, Fr Sidin (pictured) set up a prayer centre for local Catholics on their day off. Its name is inspired by the Prophet Noah. It promotes various initiatives to protect the environment whilst encouraging Christian worship and Franciscan spirituality.

Samuel Onton Sidin was born in 1954 from tribal Dayak family. Ordained in 1984, he graduated in theology from the Antonianum University in Rome. After serving two mandates as Capuchin provincial president, he currently carries out pastoral work at the Assisi Parish Church in Tebet, South Jakarta.

One of its many environmental initiatives involved the reforestation in 2000 of a 90-hectare area on the Benuah Mountains (locally known as Mount Tunggal) near the village of Teluk Bakung, Sei Ambawang Sub-district.

Because of a large-scale bush fire set to clear it for a plantation, the area was a wasteland until the priest's go green project.

Fr Sidin also planted rare indigenous trees that were on the verge of extinction and set up a bird sanctuary.

When they come to Rumah Pelangi, visitors and residents must respect two basic rules: no bird shooting and no tree cutting.

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