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

  • Without shoes or a helmet, a young cyclist steals the show

    Pech Theara gripped the curved handlebars of his rusty old bike, planted his bare feet on its pedals and stormed as fast as he could towards the finish line. The odds were against him as the 13-year-old faced off against kids with nicer bikes at

  • Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville expressway on schedule

    The construction of the more than $1.9 billion Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway has not been delayed despite the Covid-19 pandemic, with more than 26 per cent of the project completed and expected to finish in about two years, according to Ministry of Public Works and Transport secretary of

  • Over 110 garment factories close

    A government official said on November 22 that at least 110 garment factories had closed in the first nine months of the year and left more than 55,000 workers without jobs – but union leaders worry those numbers could be much higher. Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training undersecretary

  • Singapore group seeks $14M in damages from PPSP over ‘breach of contract’

    Singapore-based Asiatic Group (Holdings) Ltd is seeking a minimum of $14.4 million relief from Cambodia Securities Exchange (CSX)-listed Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone Plc (PPSP) for allegedly breaching a power plant joint venture (JV) agreement. Asiatic Group’s wholly-owned Colben System Pte Ltd and 95 per

  • PM vows to protect Hun family

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has vowed to continue his fight against opposition politicians who he said intend to smash the Hun family. Without naming the politicians but apparently referring to former leaders of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), Hun Sen said there

  • Cambodia lauded for fight against Covid-19

    Cambodia has drawn global accolades for its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, with a new report finding that the Kingdom has controlled the pandemic better than any other country in Asia. Dr Takeshi Kasai, director of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Western Pacific region,