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