Yesterday marked the 40 year anniversary of when the Khmer Rouge stormed Phnom Penh and forced the population to evacuate to the country. During the next four years the Khmer Rouge tried to eradicate all religious groups especially Christians. This is an amazing book retelling the story of what God did through the Cambodian church. This is an updated version of the book.
In 1970 there was greater freedom for Christians and this saw a growth in the local church. At the beginning of the Civil war there were about 3 congregations in Phnom Penh, which by 1975 when the Khmer Rouge took over had grown to about 30, totaling about 10,000 members.
During the Khmer Rouge it is thought that 90% of all Christians and Christian leaders were martyred or escaped the country. By 1979 it was estimated that there were only 200 Christians remaining in Cambodia. The church was left vulnerable with many of its leaders systematically killed by the Khmer Rouge regime or fled the country.Today from the small remnant there has grown an estimated 250,000 Christians and around 750 churches. This massive growth means there is a huge need to train leaders, teach and create resources. The difficulty for many Cambodian pastors is that they need a paid job outside of the church to be able to support their family.
There have been many outside agencies and organizations which have been involved in supporting the local church over the last 40 years, sometimes this has been good and other times has created an unhealthy reliance on outside help. The desire of many people I work with is to see Cambodians leading the church with a depth of maturity and wisdom.In the last 6 years we have been involved in a small local church, not in any position of leadership just attending and supporting the local Christians. It has been so exciting to see how they have grown and matured from being very young Christians to future leaders. There is a passion to write their own worship songs, the desire to reach out to others and rural areas, to work out how Khmer culture and Christianity fit together, how to serve and look after the poor and vulnerable in our congregation in a way that empowers them and how to live life in a way that honours God but also shows respect for their families.
This is so exciting and we are humbled to be a part of it, and have so much respect for our fellow Cambodian Christians who have been through so much pain and heartache in the past and still live in a society scarred by events in history. I am thankful that we serve a God who delights in setting people free from their past and my prayer is this will be something which is evident in Liberty Family Church but also in the Cambodian church as a whole.
References and extra reading:
- A Story:40 Years since Khmer Rouge
- OMF Cambodia Profile
- OMF:Pray for Cambodia
- Interserve: Cambodia
- Book: Killing Fields Living Fields: Faith in Cambodia