The Words of the Thananopavarn Family
Baan Dadthongchareon, Thailand -- A Religious Youth Project in northern Thailand on the theme of "Inter-religious Cooperation and Service Shaping Character and World Peace" from March 15 to 19 promoted understanding, friendship, and harmony among youth from different religious and cultural backgrounds. The 70 Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, and Catholic participants were inspired by their experiences together and planned to go back to their universities, schools, and hometowns and apply what they learned to develop youth programs for cultivating harmony, unity, morality, and peace in their own communities.
The project was held in the village of Baan Dadthongchareon in Angthong District of Kampheangphet Province in the Lower North area, about six hours north of the capital, Bangkok. This agricultural community has had substantial success in applying the ideal of Economic Sufficiency, which was initiated by King Bhumiphol Adulayadej of Thailand to promote sustainable prosperity and community cooperation.
The goals for this project included honoring King Bhumiphol and his Economic Sufficiency project; promote understanding, friendship, and harmony among youth from different religious and cultures backgrounds; and raise up young leaders who can promote family values and inter-religious harmony in their own communities, countering patterns drug addiction and sexual immorality. Participants included ten Muslims from Pattani province, an area of conflict in the southern tip of Thailand, and five Muslims from Nontaburi province, near Bangkok. There were also six Christians and one Catholic. The other participants were Buddhist.
The Opening Ceremony took place in the Ceremony Hall of Wat Bharomathat Jediyaram, the main temple of Kamphaengphet City. Dr. Somphong Somnakphong, Representative of the Chairman of the Provincial Administrative Organization, and Professor Kirti Bunchua, Vice President of UPF-Thailand, spoke first, followed by Mr. Jirakiat Phumsawasdee, Vice Governor of Khamphaengphet Province, who gave the keynote address.
Afterwards, RYS participants visited the Buddhist monk in the temple's main sanctuary and gained insights from his teaching. Then, they traveled to the Yannatulmuhminun Mosque, where they listened to the imam's teachings and experienced Friday noontime prayers. After that, they visited the Christasomphob Catholic Church and listened to teachings about the Catholic tradition. Moreover, they had an opportunity to visit the historical park of the ancient Kamphaengphet City, which dates back 500 to 800 years. Every morning, participants learned from each other about the principles and traditions of Islam, Buddhism, and Christianity. Through these experiences, the young people could understand more deeply about their various religious and cultural backgrounds and develop admiration, respect, and friendship.
In service to the community, participants worked together to improve a children's playground, build vegetable and fruit gardens, repair the road inside the school compound, and build a water drainage system.
Educational programs included lectures from an officer of the Narcotics Control Board about how to avoid drug addiction. Mr. Kamol Thananopavarn, Deputy Secretary General of UPF-Thailand, gave a lecture on "The Family as the School of Love and Peace" that included examples of insights into the family, purity, and filial piety from the teachings of all major religious traditions. One evening he explained about the inauguration of Inter-religious Council for Peace in Thailand in which the heads of Buddhism and Islam joined Christian and Sikh leaders in a commitment to promote harmony among religions and join hands to uplift the standard of morality and ethics in the nation.
Other learning activities included the "unity ball game," which promotes a culture of serving, a positive outlook, and harmony. Participants discussed and exchanged ideas about their vision of an ideal peace community. Then, they had an opportunity to learn about the village's success in applying the King's principles of Economic Sufficiency; they saw the rice mill, sarjor-caju mushroom farm, insect repellent made of burning wood, community irrigation system, and joint plantation. Mr. Sakchai and Tarinasorn Samthab, chairman and guru of the village's Learning Center of Sustainable Economy, explained about their programs.
On the last evening, there was a cultural performance by elementary school students in the village in honor of King Bhumiphol and the RYS participants. Songs promoting Buddhist values were sung by Ambassadors for Peace who traveled from Bangkok in order to meet the participants and express appreciation for their contributions. In the closing ceremony, UPF-Thailand and Ambassadors for Peace presented ten elementary school students with scholarships of 2,500 baht (US$ 83).
Before the closing ceremony, participants went to Khlonglan Waterfall National Park for a time of reflection and sharing. Many Muslims commented that this was first time to enter a temple and listen to a monk's teaching. Most of the Buddhists also said it was their first time to enter a mosque, listen to the sermon of an imam, and witness Muslims at Friday prayers; they said they could sense the faith that Muslims have in Allah. Participants expressed that this was first time that they made friends from different religions. They said that they were inspired by the atmosphere of love, sincerity, understanding, helpfulness, friendship, and harmony beyond boundaries of religions and cultures. They reported that the presentations on family values were aligned with what they believe through their own religious traditions.
The youth committed themselves to bring these experiences back home and help promote harmony, love, and virtue in their own schools and communities.
The project was carried out with the cooperation of Kamphangphet Province, Kamphangphet Provincial Administrative Organization, Office of the Narcotics Control Board, Angthong District Administrative Organization, and Baan Dadthongchareong School. This was the 19th Religious Youth Service project in Thailand since 1989.