02/12/2011, 00.00
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Mount Merapi: reforestation project unites Christians and Muslims

by Mathias Hariyadi
The initiative includes the planting of 112,500 trees on an area 75 hectares and involves three villages. Among the supporters, the archbishop of Semarang: The environment is a "pressing problem" for the economy and population growth. To date over 50 thousand already grafted shrubs.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - An environmental restoration project on the slopes of Mount Merapi - theatre last October of a series of eruptions - which involves the planting of more than 110 thousand trees in an area about 75 hectares, over three villages . This is the initiative launched by an Indonesian inter-faith forum, made up of Christians and Muslims, which has enthusiastically joined the local youth movement. Among the supporters is Mgr. Johannes Pujasumarta Pr, Archbishop of Semarang, who defines the preservation of a "pressing problem" for the economy and population growth.

The project originated on the slopes of Mount Merapi, located on the border area between the provinces of Central Java and Yogyakarta, it is important for two reasons: it aims to qualify the area hit by a series of volcanic eruptions, which caused death and devastation in October and November. It will also promote joint initiatives between Christians and Muslims in the name of multiculturalism and brotherhood, with the involvement of young people. "A month after installation as bishop of Semarang and three months after the volcanic eruption of Merapi - said Mgr. Pujasumarta - I received an invitation from a group called PALM, formed by inter-religious leaders of central Java, to support projects of reforestation of areas affected by the lava flow. "

The group name is an acronym of the Indonesian slogan "Penghijauan Area Lereng Merapi " - the regeneration of the slopes of Mount Merapi, through reforestation programs - and is supported by numerous organizations that promote interfaith dialogue. Among others Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) - the world's largest moderate Muslim country - of Yogyakarta, the Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo, Catholic scientists and biologists, and university professors are participating.

The reforestation project covers an area of 75 hectares, including three villages situated on the slopes of the volcano. "We want to plant at least 112,500 trees," said the archbishop, of which 51,750 have already been grafted and that 85,875 will be provided by other donors. "The preservation of the environment - continues the archbishop - is an urgent matter to be encouraged, in addition to restoring the economy of the local population and a sustainable environmental ecosystem."

All participants involved in the project at the end of the meetings loudly sing the national anthem and recite prayers of Indonesia following the instructions of the leaders of the interfaith movement. Fr. Aloys Budipurnomo Pr, head of the interreligious commission for the Archdiocese of Semarang, underlines the enthusiastic support of the project by local youths, "a source of hope - the religious states – we are planting the seed of brotherhood among the young activists of all faiths, thanks to this project".

The initiative for reforestation of the slopes of Mount Merapi follows in the footsteps of a project begun last December by a Xaverian priest, Fr Rodolfo Cyrus, who with the help of groups and institutions promoted the reconstruction of an irrigation system destroyed by the lava flow.
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