The Cambodian Prime Minister spoke at the centenary celebrations of the first evangelical mission. He affirmed that “the kingdom grants extensive rights and freedoms” and urged to contribute to “political stability and social order.” Meanwhile, a well-known Christian activist remains in jail serving a six-year sentence for supporting the opposition.
Phnom Penh () – Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen spoke at the centenary celebrations of the presence of evangelical communities in the country. Meanwhile, however, Theary Seng, a well-known Christian activist who also worked on a new translation of the Bible into the Khmer language, is still serving six years in jail for “treason”.
The Prime Minister, who has led the executive for almost 40 years, stressed that “the government supports and grants extensive rights and freedoms to all religions in the kingdom.” Addressing the community, he added that “religious differences are not an obstacle to the development of the nation, so no one is forced to believe in any religion.”
The Cambodian Gospel Centennial Celebration is a two-day festival held in the capital, Phnom Penh, to commemorate the arrival of the first Protestant missionaries in 1923. Older is the Catholic presence, whose earliest roots go back to the friar Portuguese Gaspar da Crus, who already in 1555 tried to start a mission. After harsh persecution, in 1790 a community was reestablished in Battambang.
Various religious denominations, stressed the prime minister, have flourished in the country since the end of the civil conflict. During the Khmer Rouge regime, between 1975 and 1979, almost all of Cambodia’s churches were razed to the ground: Phnom Penh’s cathedral cemetery was turned into a banana plantation.
“In times of war, religion also suffers. Look at what is happening in Ukraine. In Cambodia, thanks to peace, we are prospering,” Hun Sen continued, noting that “there should be no divisions in the Christian community.” “I ask everyone to participate in the activities related to the development of our country and to continue to maintain peace, political stability, security and social order, to ensure that all religions enjoy peace and prosperity.”
Cambodia’s Christians are a small minority of the population, but evangelical communities speak of slow and steady growth. The festival was organized by an executive committee in which only three members are of foreign origin, unlike in the past, and three-quarters of the $228,000 raised for the event were donations from within the country, he wrote. Christianity Today.
Christian activist Theary Seng, who had supported former opposition leader Saim Rainsy, remains in prison after the Supreme Court upheld a six-year sentence in October last year.