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Managing trust

Managing trust

The man with guesthouse troubles ("Sound and fury in Sihanoukville" Post

September 24) seems to accept his own large part in them. Good to see! But the story

might give new-to-Cambodia visitors a dim view of both local people and resident

foreigners.

My biggest fear is that mistrust of Khmers may be bolstered. In my eleven visits

here they have been overwhelmingly respectful and trustworthy. What it takes is for

us barangs to be respectful and trustworthy, managing a huge 'trust' we hold - as

a sector with such power, money, world knowledge, and more - to care for and respect

Khmer people, culture, traditions and initiative. Many barangs do show that respect

and forge deep, lasting ties with Khmer friends. I hope those stories make the news,

too.

This leads to the "fundamental threat" letter, which made telling points.

In this shattered country, a strong element (evangelical religious conversion) that

may further disrupt families and communities might do more harm than good.

Raised in a Christian culture and home, I share with millions - of Christian as well

as other faiths - a belief in many paths to enlightenment. Five recent days visiting

Chhung Leap Temple, near Ta Khmau, taught me much about the glory of Buddhism. I

felt the thrilling power of ancient ceremonies, strong community, and people enriched

by their faith. If 600 years of Christian-to-Christian (Catholic-Protestant) war

in Northern Ireland did not show us, the agonies of today's Muslims - often blamed

as a group for world woes despite Islam's pure core - should teach us now! It is

not which faith we follow that matters, but whether we use that faith to unite or

divide, to build or destroy.

Khmer religious tradition, in a climate of global awareness and welcomed diversity,

needs to be strengthened following its terrible abuse at Khmer Rouge hands. In this

and other ways, Khmers and barangs can and should join together to rebuild this great

country and culture.

Arne Sahlen (a Canadian) - Phnom Penh

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