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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Message on missionaries

Message on missionaries

I refer to the commentary article by John Trezise (Post August 13, 2004) entitled

"A Missionary Message of Misery". While I too find the pamphlet offensive

and a poor representation of Christianity, I wish to point out that respect and tolerance

goes two ways and to take the following issues with his article:

1. The man he met was a Cambodian national and therefore a representative of his

local culture, even if not a mainstream representative. He was not a "missionary

coaxing Cambodians away . . . to a Western religion". He was a Cambodian advertising

a minority religion that has been in Cambodia for two centuries and is actually an

Eastern religion with 2,000-year-old roots in India.

2. To categorize all or even some missionaries with one extreme example is to invite

stereotyping and targeting of a minority religion/sub-culture, not a direction Cambodia

needs to go in its human rights development.

3. To cite as positive examples the laws of countries who have poor human rights

records, particularly Sri Lanka in the area of tolerance of minority groups, seems

unhelpful to me.

4. Cambodia, as an emerging democracy, needs to have the conversation that with the

value of freedom of speech comes the immediate drawback that one has to tolerate

views and opinions (and, yes, sometimes pamphlets and loudspeakers) that are different

and sometimes offensive to one's own sensibilities. Until the government recognizes

that, opposition will always be dangerous instead of positive, and minorities will

always be a cultural threat, instead of an enrichment.

Samantha Baker Evens - Phnom Penh

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