Cambodia - (Asia)

Information about Cambodia

Phnom Penh
181035 square kilometres
Buddhist 88.4%, Muslim 2%, Animist 3%, Christian 0,1% (Prot around 10,000, RCath 4,000)
Christian (%)
Protestant (%)
Reformed (%)

Cambodia is basically a Buddhist country. For centuries Buddhism was closely linked to the worship of the king ruler (devarajaia cult). In the 13th century Theravada Buddhism was brought to the country by Thai monks and was officially recognized by King Jayavarman Parameswara (1327-1336). The royal constitution (1956) recognizes Buddhism as the state religion. In 1970 General Lon Nol over-threw the royal house, and King Norodom Sihanouk went into exile. Under the extreme Communist regime of the Khmer Rouge led by Pol Pot, hundreds of thousands were massacred (1975-1979). The churches suffered persecution. Many died or fled to other countries. In the ’80s Vietnam occupied Cambodia and established a pro-Vietnamese regime. After many years of internal strife, elections were held and Sihanouk was able to return to the country.
RCath missionary efforts began in the 16th century, but the Christian pres encedeveloped slowly. In 1842 there were four churches and a little over 200 RCath Christians. By 1962 their number had increased to 62,000, but most of them were Vietnamese, Chinese, or European. Under Lon Nol’s anti-Vietnamese regime regime many of them were killed, and under Pol Pot RCath missionaries were expelled. As a result the number of RCath drastically diminished.
A Prot mission was started in 1923 by the Christian and Missionary Alliance (CMA) among the Khmer population. Their center was in Phnom Penh. By 1964 the mission had founded 13 congr in 9 of the 17 provinces. In 1970 Evangelicals numbered about 10,000 to 12,000 members, many of them among the Khmer population. Work was also initiated among the Muong, Biet, and Kuoy in the northeastern part of the country. In 1965 the missionaries were forced to leave. Many of them returned under Lon Nol. Thousands of Christians were massacred during the Pol Pot regime (1975-1978); many fled abroad. Only about 2,000 remained in the country. A sizeable number of Cambodian congr were established among the refugees in neighboring Thailand.
During the pro-Vietnamese regime Prot were again able to gather, and in 1990 religious freedom was granted. At present more than 30 denominations and congr with about 10,000 members are to be found, mainly in the areas of Phnom Penh and Battembang, as well as among the Muong. In 1996 an Evangelical Fellowship of Cambodia was founded. A new translation of the Bible into Khmer is in preparation. Reliable figures are difficult to report.



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