Green Compassion

Tribal Elders planting a sacred tree.

It's been a tumultuous year in Kenya, where Green World Campaign has its African regional headquarters. Hundreds of people have been killed and wounded in terrorist attacks, though largely unremarked by the international press. In keeping with our practice of "planting seeds of spirit in the soil of the world,"Green World Campaign brought groups in coastal Kenya together to plant hundreds of trees to protect a sacred forest and grow trust.

Local schools, youth groups, elders and government representatives met to extend GWC's "peace trees" tradition that began a few years ago with a youth-led national campaign whose slogan "Plant a Tree, Harvest Peace" struck a deep national chord. We have promoted an ethos of conflict resolution alongside our treeplanting practices: peace with the environment, comity among different ethnicities, religion, and political beliefs.

These peace trees were planted in a Kaya ("sacred forest" in Kiswahili), places held in holy reverence by local people and considered to have an aura of special magic. As places of ritual gathering, they have long been under a sacred protection that has also sheltered indigenous plants and animals from destruction. As a result, these areas are often biodiversity hotspots where wildlife and diverse species have been permitted to thrive even as other forest areas are devastated.

Elders offered a traditional peace prayer urging the entire community to respect the Kaya forest as a symbol of peaceful coexistence with each other, the flora and fauna, and the ancestral world. Led by elders and children, the community planted 350 trees as symbols of GWC's larger plan to build out ever more biodiverse forest from these sacred strongholds.

There is a growing body of academic study recognizing sacred sites as key sanctuaries of biodiversity as well as cultural treasures and repositories of indigenous environmental management. They exemplify the relationship between human beings, nature, spirituality, and society. Our work to protect and restore them not only preserves key remnants of the once-extensive Kenyan coastal forest belt, but illustrates our holistic approach to "'green compassion"" that includes receptive learning from community wisdom.

This leads to novel and potentially more effective practices to protect and restore the Earth in an epoch of unprecedented devastation based on the holistic relationship between nature, society, and the human spirit. As people gather to restore and protect the sacred Kaya, they create ecological health and community harmony, planting seeds of peace that will flourish for generations.