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Buddhism in the News


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Cambodia Cracks Down on Evangelicals

Phnom Penh, Cambodia -- The Cambodian government has clamped down on Christian groups and is seeking to limit religious activities by other non-Buddhist organizations, which it says disrupt society.

A directive from the Ministry of Cults and Religions states that "Christians are prohibited from visiting people's houses ... knocking on the door and waiting to say 'the Lord has arrived'." Distribution of religious literature will also be confined to churches, which now must be approved by the ministry before they can be built. Government officials say while the ruling applies to all non-Buddhist groups, it is aimed at curbing Christian evangelical influence in largely Buddhist Cambodia, amid reports of children being tricked into converting with cakes and free clothing.

James: How quickly Cambodia forgot the repression the Buddhist faith suffered under the Communist Khmer Rouge--and now the dominate Buddhist country is doing it's own form of religious repression. This is just so sad. While I have my differences with Evangelical Christianity I do not support intolerance of other religions. I find it highly disappointing that a predominately Buddhist country would express such intolerance for another faith. I firmly believe that all beings should have the right to follow the religion (or no religion) of their choosing and I do not believe that limiting one's religious freedoms is in keeping with the Buddha's teachings.

In particular I think of the great teaching of inter-being. If we have truly internalized this teaching then we understand that limiting freedom of religion causes suffering to others and in turn causes us suffering for such division breeds hatred and bitterness between people. This elitist attitude completely violates the middle path that is key to the Buddhist faith. It is easy for one to fall into this kind of trap when one is focused purely on oneself. It represents a desire to control and own Buddhism and religion in general.

This kind of duality also shows a lack of understanding of impermanence. For if we honestly understand this very important principle then we realize that Buddhism may not always be the dominate religion in some countries--and that is o.k. Such change does not take away or diminish the Dharma's importance or beauty. Take for example India--the birth place of Buddhism. Buddhism began to dwindle there despite being the center of Buddhist beliefs and thought for generations--it was subject to change and as Buddhism diminished in India in moved to other areas of Asia. And now today we are seeing a revival of Buddhism in the long Hindu dominated country. It has been reborn.

I have found it more skillful, peaceful, compassionate and beneficial to rejoice in what we all have in common rather then in our perceived differences.

Buddhism is by no means immune to corruption and perversion of it's beautiful Dharma. May the Cambodian government realize the suffering this will cause and reverse their course.

PHOTO CREDIT: Angkor Wat, Cambodia

~Peace to all beings~

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james said...

Be thankful that the government is limiting aggressive and historically intolerant religions. If either Christiantity or Islam gains a foothold in Cambodia you can say goodby to other forms of religion. Bpth are a blight on religious freedom and free speech.

dragonflyfilly said...

yeah, i heard this on the news this morning, but i was only half listening and assumed that it was the Muslims that had imposed the ban. is too bad when religion is debased by politics!

dragonflyfilly said...

me, in answer to you querie on your previous Post - my Main Blog is "pink" ...the URL is

that should get you there, so don't forget to stop by and "pick up" your award; if you want you left click on the photo and then Post it on your own blog, but only if you feel so inclined. It is entirely up to you.


dragonflyfilly said...

p.s.the template is Pink!

nlg108 said...

While I agree in general with your desire to see less repression of any religion, there is a middle way here that I would advocate: making unlawful the active and overt conduct of attempting to convert people to another religion. Swami Dayananda Saraswati, a master of the nondual path of Advaita Vedanta, wrote a wonderful essay in response to Christan conversion activity in India, entitled "Conversion Is Violence", which can be found in many places on the internet, including Namaste!

Tom said...

We should not expect much from the Cambodian government. The people there do not have the government they deserve. This from wikipedia:

"In 2006, Transparency International rated Cambodia as 151 of 163 countries making it one of the most corrupt countries on earth. The BBC reports that corruption is rampant in the Cambodian political arena with international aid from the U.S. and other countries being illegally transferred into private accounts. Corruption has also added to the wide income disparity within the population."

I would guess the effort by the government is simply to control the population against, mostly Islamic, aggitators. Or, other threats that can come from free-thinking people. Non-Western Buddhists are easy to control. Thus the government hides behind Buddhism's skirt.

They call him James Ure said...


Yeah and used by politicians to their own gain. And thank-you for the info. regarding your blog.


I just do not think it is the right of any government to make unlawful missionary activity--such a policy does not seem very democratic. It also sets a dangerous precedent in limiting the free expression of religion.

I feel it should be left up to the individual if they wish to listen to missionaries or not.


Thank-you for that information. It provides excellent context. It sure is sad to see a government manipulate religion is such a way.

mikenj said...

James, I appreciate your stance on this. Evangelicals bring out the anger in me as few other groups do, but you are doing a Buddhist blog and the Buddha was all about tolerance as far as I've read. There are many instances in the Suttas of this behavior and attitude. But here is a quote from an edict of Buddhist Emperor Asoka (India, 3rd century BCE)which sums it up nicely. He is announcing his intention that "...there should be growth in the essentials of all religions. Growth in essentials can be done in different ways, but all of them have as their root restraint in speech, that is, not praising one's own religion, or condemning the religion of others without good cause. And if there is cause for criticism, it should be done in a mild way. But it is better to honor other religions for this reason. By so doing, one's own religion benefits, and so do other religions, while doing otherwise harms one's own religion and the religions of others. Whoever praises his own religion, due to excessive devotion, and condemns others with the thought "Let me glorify my own religion," only harms his own religion. Therefore contact (between religions) is good. One should listen to and respect the doctrines professed by others."
Here's the link from which this was copied:

Anonymous said...

mikenj; thank you for your thoughtful comment. In general I share the sentiments expressed, however if a dog bites you, feeding it to make it stronger and allowilng it to run loose does not make much sense.
Apparently Emperor Asoka agrees with me because he left himself some wiggle room. Note that part of the quote that says, "...or condemning the religion of others without good cause."
Evangelical Christians and many Musllims have proven to be very aggressive and intolerant of other religions. Tolerance and understanding is a 2 way street.

They call him James Ure said...


Excellent post. Ashoka is a wonderful example of how mindful politics can be accomplished.


First, I just want to make sure everyone knows that I'm not the same James who left this post. :)

I agree that intolerance toward our faith can be very frustrating and even angering. Yet, I do not think it is skillful to fight intolerance with more intolerance.

Anonymous said...

It is not forbidden for Cambodians to become Christians, so they are not intolerant in that respect. They just want to save the Cambodian people from being hassled by the Christian Right. It does disrupt society. I, for one, wish they would stay from whence they came.

Jacob said...

Jacob said...

Anonymous said...

Though I'm sad that they would take religious rights I do feel a bit better knowing that the government is taking a position on a group which has historically been dishonest and aggressive to the indeginius religions

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