Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Thank God for Catholic missionary approach

Thank God for Catholic missionary approach

Thank God for Catholic missionary approach

Dear Editor,

Reading Sebastian Strangio's interview "Border camps, Buddhism and building a mission" (June 5) made me think about the different approaches of Christian missionaries in Cambodia.

I really appreciate Sister Denise Coughlan, who says her Jesuit Services Organisation doesn't proselytise or baptise Cambodian people.

Among Christian denominations, Catholicism has carried out their overseas missions very differently. While other denominations, such as the Anglican church, have used the Bible as their means to interact with people, and employ charitable proselytising to attract people to convert, Catholic missionaries have worked tirelessly at the grassroots level. For example, in their communities they work hard providing basic education, helping to preserve local traditions and culture, and they have worked closely with Cambodian Buddhist monks.

In Cambodia recently, there has been some controversy over Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses who have disturbed the calm of their Cambodian neighbours with their proselytising. Aggressive missionary approaches will, most likely,  achieve more conversions. In contrast to this approach, Catholic missionaries spend more time improving education and health care and building their understanding of folk culture.

Catholics have always attempted to strengthen their ties to the grassroots level of Cambodian society. Catholic pastors have even adopted rituals that imitate Buddhist rituals, such as sprinkling sacred water on the participants at crops blessing ceremonies.

In addition, much Buddhist language has been used by Catholic pastors.  Father Francois Ponchaud, a scholar of Cambodian history and tradition, exemplifies this.

In sum, the aim of all Christian missionaries is ubiquitous: to work towards the propagation of the Christian gospel, but their approaches are different.

World Vision, one of Cambodia's largest charitable organisations, stated as their key mission "to follow Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in working with the poor and oppressed to promote human transformation, seek justice and bear witness to the good news of the Kingdom of God". Many Cambodian employees working for World Vision might be a Christian or attend the Mass once per week.

The Catholic's Second Vatican Council told those of non-Christian faith that they were created by God and they all will return to God. But this statement is badly opposed to the principle teaching of Lord Buddha, which holds that "human beings are created by Karma or deeds via thought, speech and action, and human beings can all be developed to be the master of Gods and men".

Sophan Seng

University of Hawaii at Manoa 

MOST VIEWED

  • Diplomatic passports issued to foreigners to be annulled

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation will move to annul diplomatic passports issued to those not born in Cambodia. Analysts say the move may be in relation to reports that former Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra used a Cambodian passport to register as

  • The hairy little heroes saving many lives in rural Cambodia

    IN RURAL Siem Reap province, rats dare to tread where no person will, as these hairy little heroes place their lives on the line each day for the good of the local community. The rodents are the most important members of a special team, leading

  • Hun Sen warns Irish MP of EBA ‘mistake’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Saturday told former Irish premier Enda Kenny, still a member of the EU nation’s parliament, that the 28-nation bloc should not make a “third mistake” regarding Cambodia by using the preferential Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement to “take 16 million

  • PM warns EU and opposition on 34th anniversary of his rule

    HUN Sen reached the milestone of 34 years as Cambodian prime minister on Monday and used the groundbreaking ceremony for a new ring road around Phnom Penh to tell the international community that putting sanctions on the Kingdom meant killing the opposition. “Please don’t forget