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

  • Omicron patients can stay home: PM

    The Ministry of Health has issued a directive on the treatment of people who have tested positive for the highly transmissible Omicron coronavirus variant, following a suggestion from Prime Minister Hun Sen on the night of January 21. The directive permits home quarantine for those who

  • The effects of the USD interest rate hike on Cambodian economy

    Experts weigh in on the effect of a potential interest rate expansion by the US Federal Reserve on a highly dollarised Cambodia Anticipation of the US Federal Reserve’s interest rate hike in March is putting developing economies on edge, a recent blog post by

  • Cambodia’s first ever anime festival kicks off Jan 22 at capital’s F3 centre

    Phnom Penh's first ever Anime Festival will bring together fans, artists, shops and other local businesses with ties to the Japanese animation style for cosplay competitions, online games, pop-up shops and more on January 22, with Friends Futures Factory (F3) hosting. F3 is a project that

  • Demining rat ‘hero’ Magawa dead at 8

    A landmine-hunting rat that was awarded a gold medal for heroism for clearing ordnance from the Cambodian countryside has died, his charity said on January 11. Magawa, a giant African pouched rat originally from Tanzania, helped clear mines from about 225,000sqm of land – the equivalent of 42

  • Hun Sen gets 4th Covid shot, urges compatriots to follow

    Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife Bun Rany on January 14 received their fourth dose of Covid-19 vaccine and called on compatriots to follow suit as the Omicron coronavirus variant continues to spread in the community. This marks the launch of Cambodia's fourth-dose vaccination campaign,

  • Fourth dose Covid booster drive jabs 43K in two days

    In the first two days of the fourth-dose Covid-19 vaccination campaign, more than 43,000 people volunteered to get the jabs, while over 4.6 million people have received a third shot. Health ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said that fourth-dose vaccinations, which began on January 14 exclusively with the Pfizer