I have often heard of Cambodia only from newspapers or television. Then I heard about this country from my teachers Vasile Filat and Mia and Costel Oglice, who are also the international ministry directors for Precept Ministries, who came to this country to prepare Christian leaders for ministry in their churches. This month the Precept Ministries Bible Institute started and was attended by 31 pastors and ministers. Coming here I sought to find out as much as possible about things less known about this people, and which I think will attract your attention.
Cambodia is a country located in Southeast Asia on the Indochina Peninsula. The country became known worldwide for the great genocide it was subjected to by its former leader Pol Pot in the late 1970s, when more than 5 million people were killed, a third of the country’s population at the time, just because this man wanted to establish a savage communism by calling it year zero. Since then, the country has barely recovered from one of the greatest atrocities of the 20th century. More than half of the country is littered with so-called “death plains.” Hundreds of thousands of Cambodians of all ages were massacred here. I also had the opportunity to visit one of these plains of death, and I was heartbroken by what I saw — skulls and other bones were kept to convey a message to the whole world, namely that indifference kills. Most Western states were indifferent to Pol Pot’s crimes. The lack of intervention and indifference they showed has fundamentally destroyed this country. The Cambodian government turned these plains into museums, precisely to show where communist ideology could lead.
Since 1953 this country has been officially called the Kingdom of Cambodia. The country is currently ruled by the king, but power is in the hands of the prime minister. It also struck me that the Cambodian flag is the only one in the world that depicts a building, and it is the building of the largest religious monument in the world.
One thing specific to this country is that over 50 percent of the population are young people aged 14-18, and here we are talking about a country with a population of 19 million. About half of them would be young. The majority religion is Buddhism, and there are about 8,000 Christians.
In fact, Christianity is relatively new to Cambodia. I sought to find out more, and I was told that about 30 years ago, the first missionaries came and began a wonderful work of evangelism. But most Cambodians, from what some pastors have told me, became Christians in refugee camps in Thailand during the civil war that ended 22 years ago.
Cambodia now enjoys great religious freedom. Right here, the country’s prime minister held a meeting with all Christian leaders of all confessions and assured them of all the freedom and support of the government. Moreover, Christians were brought as an example for other religions such as Buddhism or Islam.
Being here for two weeks I was so impressed with the desire of the leaders to study the Scriptures deeply. I was very touched by the example of an elderly couple, who even if they had difficulty moving, could hardly read, were always first. They confessed to me that only now do they feel truly happy to learn the truths of the Gospel of John. Moreover, as soon as they received the Lord Jesus, they planted a church in their town, and now they say they will immediately go and plant another church.
Cambodia is very open to Christianity. I became convinced of this when I gave the pastor students a homework assignment to study with at least five people. When they returned to class the next day, some of them confessed to me that they had studied with as many as 50 people, who were open to the gospel. Interestingly, most were Buddhists. We pray that all who have heard the gospel become disciples of the Lord Jesus.
As I wrote above, I was pleasantly surprised to see the large number of young people on the streets. And I thought that these young people have a great opportunity to be involved in computer, English-language or sports ministry. When I told the organizer of the Computer School session about English-language ministry and the Timothy School, he was amazed and said that he wanted all these schools to operate in Cambodia as well. We pray that God will direct us so that we can meet these needs.
Translated by Liza Bîrlădeanu