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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Rally defies 'devil'

Rally defies 'devil'

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raily.jpg

Tracey Shelton

A mass of fervent Christian worshippers climbed the locked gates of Chenla Theater to join in hymns and prayers with TV evangelist Joyce Meyers (below in medallion), despite attempts by government officials to halt the gathering.

Despite power cuts and locked gates, thousands of people sang hymns, chanted and

waved interlocked hands in a rally outside Chenla theater organized by a Christian

TV evangelist who says Cambodia is "in desperate need of a savior."

The "efforts of the devil" will not be allowed to stop the rally, TV evangelist

Joyce Meyers assured the crowd August 10 as more followers chanting "hallelujah"

and "praise Jesus" scrambled over the fences to join the singing.

The meeting was moved to Chenla after permission to meet at Olympic stadium was withdrawn

by government officials. Although local officials tried to block the gathering at

Chenla by cutting the power and locking the front gates, people gathered in the courtyard

anyway.

According to a new directive from the Ministry of Cults and Religion released in

July, religious groups are not permitted to preach publicly or by microphone because

of risks to social stability.

"The ministry had received a letter from the group asking to perform a concert,"

explained the Secretary of State for the ministry, Sun Kim Hun. "But this received

a bad reaction from many Buddhists including the Great Supreme Patriarch Tep Vong

because they had planned, not just a concert, but a promotion of their religion."

"I think if the MoCR allowed them to perform there would have been a protest

from the monks," Kim Hun said, "and there would be a problem for us."

The rally was the latest clash between the government and evangelical Christians

in the Kingdom. Meyers, who runs Meyers Ministries, and was in Cambodia on a 30-day

tour, has commented on a website that Cambodia is a country "so deep in false

religion that people are willing to starve their families so they can leave food

for the spirits." In the comment on Teen Mania, a website that encourages volunteers

to join the campaign, Meyers Ministries continued: "With 95% of the population

being Buddhist the people of Cambodia are in desperate need of a Savior - the One

True God."

Meyers visit to Cambodia was organized by a coalition of churches. The group planned

to visit four provinces to assist and preach to local villages. During the so-called

30 days of hope, 130 volunteer doctors from different countries treated 9,000 patients

in temporary clinics, according to event coordinator Charlie Pisaruk. The clinics

were set up in Battambang, Kampong Cham, Kampong Thom and Phnom Penh.

"We had some resistance in the provinces," Pisaruk said, referring to the

cancellation of their final church meeting in Kampong Thom and permission being withdrawn

for the use of the soccer stadium in Battambang.

"But we still had our meetings, we still had our clinics and we were blessed

to be here to help where we could," he said.

Pisaruk said the aid work conducted was kept separate from the missionary work in

accordance with the MoCR's guidelines and no pressure was placed on patients to attend

the evening services. Still, according to the Meyers Ministries website, 54,000 conversions

were made, an average of 1,800 for each day of hope.

"Our overall goal was to bring some hope to Cambodian people - both in a practical

way and a spiritual way," Pisaruk said. "In spite of the problems I think

we were successful."

Christian gatherings were held in each province with about 25,000 people attending

each of the three evening sermons held in Battambang before the last planned meeting

was stopped by authorities, according to Pisaruk.

The climax was to be a three- night rally in Phnom Penh with sermons and prayers

by Joyce Meyers and performances by gospel singer Darlene Zschech and bible band

Delirious. Organizers expected record breaking attendance. "We are going to

make history,"

Meyers declared.

After the Olympic Stadium meeting was blocked, the Chenla rally went ahead on Aug.

10. Although the gates were locked, a crowd gathered quickly outside, blocking traffic

on the busy Monireth intersection. Before the proceedings could begin, authorities

arrived and attempted to halt the meeting. David Meyers, Joyce's son, stated on the

website that authorities had the power shut off "even though they had no authority

to do so." The meeting continued in the courtyard with frenzied followers jumping

the fence, but the planned second and third night events were not allowed to proceed.

In her courtyard speech, Meyers likened the interference to the ancient Egyptian

oppression over the Israelites.

"This will actually cause the kingdom of God to grow," Meyers said. "We

break religious strongholds over this city so that multitudes will come into a deep

personal relationship with God. Let's Rejoice - we have the victory!"

Longtime evangelist

Joyce Meyers began her career in 1976 when she began speaking in tongues at a bowling

alley, according to an entry about her in Wikipedia. By 1985 she began her own Ministry

at first with radio broadcasts and later with television programs that today have

an estimated audience of over 2.5 billion worldwide.

Her Meyers Ministries has come under fire by many groups, both Christian and non

Christian, for a supposedly extravagant lifestyle and claims that Ministry funds

are spent on herself and her family members who make up the board members of the

Meyers Ministries.

According to the website 'inplainsite', the ministry headquarters is located on a

$20 million estate with furniture and artwork worth $5.7 million.

The website says a fleet of vehicles valued at $440,000 and a $10 million private

jet were purchased with Meyers Ministries money. Five family homes worth a total

value of $4 million have also been purchased for Meyers and her children.

Ministry Watch, an independent group that reviews Christian Ministries for financial

accountability in order to advise donors warned on their website against donating

to the Joyce Meyers Ministries due the Meyers family's "exorbitant spending."

"With the Meyers family seemingly using God's money for their own personal gain,"

the website continued, "it is highly likely that they need to humble themselves,

repent and seek to re-establish a right relationship with the Lord and His people."

In response, the Meyers Ministry spokesperson Lorri Silvera told the Post by email

although Meyers receives a salary, most of her personal income comes from her book

sales.

Meyers' standard response published on various websites to the accusation is: "there's

no need for us to apologize for being blessed."

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