A Long View: Cambodians Telling the History of Christians in Cambodia
Every people has a story. And, it’s often and inspiring thing to listen to people tell their story or their history. In this case I’d like to share some snap shots of the story young Cambodian Christians shared with us a couple of weeks ago. It’s a timeline story of colonialism, persecution, war, refugee camps, missionaries, and now a young church in a young country. It’s a story with some wonder in it: How has God been working in times of colonialism, persecution, traumatic war in Cambodia?
From the 1500s, Roman Catholic missionaries came to Cambodia. In 1923 the first Protestant missionaries came. There were only about 2000 Christians in the whole country during much of the French colonial period. In 1965 the missionaries were driven out.
There was a Bible translation in the 1960s. I’ve heard that it has no punctuation and that the verse numbers have been used instead of commas and periods—- as pause points for the readers. The Lon Nol rule began in 1970. (My understanding is that Lon Nol’s regime was supported by the US government during the Vietnam War era.) There was a time of religious freedom before the 1975 withdrawal of the US forces from Vietnam.
There was a time of terror. In 1975 the Pol Pot reign of terror began and Christians were killed; many people went to refugee camps. Other Christians became an underground church in Cambodia. In the camps many became Christians. Vietnam invaded Cambodia in 1979 to put a stop to Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime.
The UN peace keepers brought in a wave of international funds and also HIV in the years between 1991 and 1993. The Christian Church grew rapidly. There was an evangelistic crusade around 1995-6 that promised healing miracles. Some people sold their land or animals in order to pay for healing miracles that did not happen. The name of Christ was shamed.