Head monk Samdech Preah Vannaratta Nay Chroek received the Supreme Spiritual Icon of the Year award at the UN headquarters in Geneva from American NGO We Care for Humanity.

He was one of 14 people honoured at the Global Order of Dignitaries and Philanthropists (GOD) 2019 event held at the UN headquarters in the Swiss city on Thursday and Friday.

The Venerable Nay Chroek is the head monk of the capital’s Chan Borei Vong pagoda in Prek Pnov district’.

We Care For Humanity was founded in 2011 by Princess Maria Amor Torres, a Filipino-American activist based in Los Angeles in the US.

Ministry of Cults and Religion spokesperson Seng Somony on Sunday said the Venerable Chroek deserved to be honoured with the award.

“He preaches encouragement and motivation, focusing on the spirit, to aid the poor in their lives and for their betterment, as well as educating them to avoid violence. He brings peace to the minds of all people,” Somony said.

Somony said the Venerable Chroek carried out spiritual instruction not only at public ceremonies but also when meeting people individually.

“He deserves to be honoured in this way. It is an honour for our nation that we have an outstanding individual receiving such an award. We appreciate this award because it is an honour not only for the Venerable Nay Chroek but also for our nation,” Somony said.

Chroek also attended a meeting on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the UN headquarters, where he spoke of the role of inter-religion dialogue in global peace.

He told those assembled that inter-religion communication could solve conflicts.

Raising an example from Cambodia, the Venerable Chroek told the meeting in Geneva that the ultra-Maoist Khmer Rouge abolished religion from 1975-79.

He said religion began being practised little by little after the Khmer Rouge, only resuming fully in 1998 after Cambodia had returned to full peace through Prime Minister Hun Sen’s “Win-Win” strategy. He said Hun Sen was a role model for the respect of freedom of religion.

“Cambodia now has mosques and churches everywhere. Followers of all religions are able to communicate with each other, and as a result, Cambodia has not had religious conflict since 1979."

“All religions have to engage in dialogue and adhere to the principles of non-violence in solving all problems, including conflicts,” he said.