My Sermon from the Garden...
So, About Religion....
While I can accept that the human brain seems to be wired to develop and practice a system of spiritual belief and I respect the choices of those who wish to practice their own chosen religion, I find it increasingly difficult to accept or respect the role that religious organisations play in our world and the influence they, collectively, wield.
Within 1km of my little cabin, on a road running along the Sangkae River, between all the bamboo and corrugated iron, one room shanties that have no running water, no electricity, usually no windows at all, definitely no glass, and absolutely no protection from the mosquitoes that carry malaria and dengue fever, I've seen a Mosque, a Buddhist Pagoda..or 10, a 'magnificent' Catholic Church complex and today I took a different route home from town and spotted a Jehovah's Witness Kingdom Hall.
The front fence/wall..
The Catholic Church is a whole complex of buildings,
pavilions, class rooms and tree lined paths, built on several acres of beautiful, lush gardens.
with it's impressive 'backyard...
Jehovah's Witness Kingdom Hall
It offends me that every one of these religious organisations, with their access to extraordinary wealth, is allowed to feed off the ignorance and poverty of people like the Khmer, in search of new souls to convert.
I'm beginning to think they should only be allowed to enter an underdeveloped country to do charitable work, and that it should be done incognito. If they really do believe what they preach, they don't need to advertise their presence, they don't need to build monuments to their own vanity, they don't need to 'save the souls' of these people before they've addressed the needs of their bodies, they just need to offer help when and where it's needed.
At present, over 60% of the Khmer population are under 20 yrs of age !
As a rule, they are not well educated and are, therefore, extremely vulnerable to the proselytizing of religious "missionaries".
In an interview aired on a Catholic Radio and Television Network (CRTN) program called "Where God Weeps", Bishop Olivier Schmitthaeusler, Vicar Apostolic of Phnom Penh made the following statement:
"..We start with the youth. The youth are very effective missionaries:
Because my friend goes to church, I too would like to go to church, even if I do not understand what the church is about'¹...I think in Cambodia, during the Khmer Rouge's four-year reign of terror under Pol Pot, everything was destroyed - culture and all forms of religion including Buddhism² and Catholicism. Then under the 10 yrs of post-Khmer Rouge, Vietnamese occupation, again no form of religion was permitted.
Over the past 20 years, the Cambodians have started rebuilding their traditions as well as their religious practices and now, I think, the people are more open than before. This is very beneficial, especially for the Catholic Church³.
The people have accepted us very well because we have a kindergarten..."
¹ After all, who needs to understand when Blind Faith is what we're really asking you for...
² Now, clearly Buddhism was not destroyed, there are Pagodas and monks everywhere you look, there are shrines in every home - even in the poorest shanties and the Khmer still follow their traditions with a fervour the catholic Church must truly envy!
³ If by "open" you mean "impressionable", then yes, they are and that's what worries me. Of course this is beneficial for the C.Church, they are after all, the authority on 'virgin' soil...
- and yes, if you bribe the poor by providing a kindergarten for the children of your new parishioners, they will come to you. If you tell them that their Naraka is false and that a wonderful place called 'Heaven' awaits but only IF if they get baptised AND have their children christened AND attend Sunday Services, they'll do that too.
In my 'humble' opinion, what the Khmer need more than anything else is education. Let them decide their own beliefs once they have some solid knowledge upon which to base those beliefs.
If your particular version of religion is everything you claim it to be, there should be no need for bribery or cajoling or coercion, the people will come to you because you speak to their own beliefs...