Sunday, December 02, 2007

Convert in your own backyard

I feel nauseous and angry when reading about these Christian do-gooders travelling around the Cambodian countryside, seeking to convert poor and uneducated villagers. I don't have a problem with them converting people who should know better, and can understand and make an informed, albeit wrong in my view, choice, but wandering around with a generator that could be better used to pump water or provide help with farming, makes my blood boil. I see and hear too many Christians in this country, proselytizing and spouting their biblical c--p, whereas back in the UK they've almost gone underground (aside from the Mormons, who used to get a mouthful when they knocked on my door) - but here, they're out in the open and doing untold damage. I know that many Christian organizations have done amazing work throughout Cambodia and they are to be thanked, but when it switches to 'persuading' people to convert, in whatever form, rather than a straightforward 'no-conditions' helping hand, then it steps over a line that I personally dislike. Here's the story that rattled my cage. Where did I put my slingshot?

Reel 'Jesus' plays to Buddhists in Cambodia - by Mary Jordan, Washington Post
The 1979 movie about the life of Christ is the most translated film in history.
Elijah Lok zoomed down dirt paths across rice paddies to the village of Trapain Ampil in the Cambodian hinterlands far to the north of Rong Domriex with the "Jesus" film strapped to his motorbike. Tonight, as on most nights, Lok would be showing this two-hour movie about the life of Jesus, the most translated movie in history. He pulled two 16 mm reels out of a metal carrier box, a big blue umbrella protecting them from monsoon-like rain. Two other members of his team lugged a giant white screen, two loudspeakers and a generator-powered projector into this village with no electricity. When the downpour eased, 70 people stood barefoot amid the muddy puddles and watched the story of Jesus told in Khmer. For most of the villagers, who live here in shacks built on stilts to protect against flooding, it was the first movie they had ever seen. And in this nation where 90 percent of people are Buddhist, the villagers were familiar with Buddha and karma but not Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
Originally released by Warner Bros. in 1979 for U.S. audiences, the "Jesus" film has been translated into more than 1,000 languages, with the voices of local actors dubbed over the originals. It has just been completed in Cham, which is spoken by several hundred thousand Muslims in Cambodia. As Lok cranked up the projector, the film's soundtrack drowned out the sound of Buddhist monks chanting in a nearby temple. "The Gospel has done so much for me and my family," said Lok, 26, who often sleeps in a hammock he carries with him from village to village. Lok said he has found peace and contentment in his religion, but not everyone is receptive to his work. Some complain that Christianity is a foreigner's faith, an unwanted import from the West. Some take offense at the notion of Christians preaching to Buddhists. "In some villages, drunks have beaten our staff," Lok said. "Sometimes people take slingshots and hit the screen." But this night, children and adults were transfixed by scenes of the birth of Jesus in a stable and of him telling people to be like the Good Samaritan and help those in need. Some cried softly at the vivid crucifixion scene and began asking questions about his empty tomb and talk of him rising from the dead. When the film ended, several people gathered to ask Lok questions. "I would like to hear more about Jesus," said Heat Chean, 30, a farmer who held his infant daughter in his arms. "I'm a Buddhist, but Christians are good, too."


Andy said...

Quick story...I was in Battambang at the start of this year and a small bus arrived at my hotel, full of well-fed Americans with their nicely-pressed clothes and large holdalls. They were from a Christian organization - but it had too many words for me to recall which one. I overheard their high-pitched whine about how hot & dusty everywhere was and that they wanted to get their large crate of 'pamphlets' up to their room, to "keep them safe". This crate took two hefty men all their strength to carry up the stairs as I followed them. Flippantly, I suggested to the chief whiner, a fortysomething woman who appeared to be the leader of the group, that maybe the box contained a dead body as it was so heavy, I even suggested it might be Jesus - at which, they redoubled their efforts to get the crate out of my sight and shot me looks that would've killed if they could. I found Battambang almost chock-a-block full of these do-gooders, ready to do the Good Lord's Work. That reminds me, where's my slingshot??

Wanna said...

Hi Andy!

Are Buddhist or Christian? Since all of my relatives are Buddhist, I'm rather sure that I am a Buddhist, too.
I think almost religions are good, but sometimes its followers teach or act toward others wrong.

Wanna said...

Oopss... I meant "Are you Buddhist or Christian?"

Andy said...

Hi Wanna,
actually I don't believe in any religion or God and people like me are usually termed as atheists. I can see there is some good in most religions but being brought up in a predominently Christian background, I have never had any inclination to 'believe' but respect the right of others to do so, unless, as I referred to in the article, its forced on people who don't know any better, mainly due to their limited education or contact with the outside world. Doing good works under the umbrella of a religious organization is where I draw the line. Being despatched to the four corners of the globe (note: I don't think you can have a globe with four corners!) to preach and convert makes me see red.

Anonymous said...

It may be politically correct but is untrue to say all religions are good. One just needs to read the Bible. God killed more people than the Khmer Rouge. These missionaries are doing terrible harm to Cambodia. The country has suffered so much. The last thing they need is another medieval myth that will further divide the people and drag them down into superstition.