Not-so Christian charityPosted by: | Posted on: September 9, 2008
Written by Sophan Seng
Tuesday, 09 September 2008
Your article “Proselytising amid poverty” (September 3) explicitly detailed the truth happening among Christian missionaries in Cambodia. Christian missionaries have been academically recognised as the coordinators of colonies.
Cambodia was first known to the world significantly by a Portugal priest San Antonio, who briefly described the beautiful cultural temples and peaceful people of Cambodia. In his memo written in 1604, regarded as a short essay reflecting the reality in Cambodia, he mentioned the greatness of the Angkor Wat ruins and speculated they were so amazing they were built by Roman architects.
Later in 1678, a French priest Chevre called Angkor Wat “Onco” for the first time, by which he meant that it was the sacred sanctuary of the nation to worship, like Roman Catholics worship Saint Peter’s Church in Rome.
We can well perceive the intent of those Christian missionaries.
During the Dark Ages of Europe, Catholics didn’t centralise their power solely in Europe, but also sent thousands of their well-trained missionaries to countries outside Europe with the intent of trying to “civilise” them.
Strangely, they civilised them in the name of their Lord. Besides trying to engage people in conversions about God, those missionaries looked for other opportunities such as natural resources, treasure and opening the door for total colonisation.
This tactic of planting Christian adherents around the world was politically oriented, and the Christian religion has tremendously increased its adherents in all those colonised countries.
Not only did they fully engage themselves in this religious war called a crusade, Christianity also affiliated itself with the problems of World War I and World War II.
Thomas Hobbes, as well as other scholars, were born to anti-Christianity. Hobbes insistently denied the existence of the kind of “state of nature” which Christians used to legitimise their power at that time through the Churches, the stories of the Creator or the tales of the Lord. Hobbes significantly shed light for the age of Enlightenment, which later welcomed the idea of liberal democracy, social contract and no authoritarianism influenced by the Church’s idea of the State of Nature.
Christianity has extensively adapted its strategies to limit the changes of the world with the intent of keeping the status quo, of continuing to spread the Christian doctrine as well as civilising others. In the modern age of capitalism, many giant investments are owned by Christian churches such as schools, hospitals and other enterprises. The Catholic Church is considered the largest group to be running both religious and material investments in the modern world. Proselytising has certainly existed from the Dark Ages to the present moment. In the past, Christianity used military and political power to expand its doctrine, but in the present beside proselytising, what else do you think they are going to use?
Ph.D student in political science
University of Hawaii at Manoa
Beware hidden prejudices
Written by David Peters
Tuesday, 16 September 2008
“Proselytising amid the Poverty” by Sebastian Strangio was an informative, fair and balanced inquiry into the activity of Christian and other non-Christian missionary efforts in Cambodia. However, Sophan Seng’s recent letter (dated September 9) to the editor entitled “Not-so Christian charity” is anything but. His response is misinformed and dangerously imbalanced.
For example, Mr Seng asserts that the church has “adapted its strategies to limit the changes of the world with the intent of keeping the status quo, of continuing to spread the Christian doctrine as well as civilising others”. The unfounded nature of this assertion and of his paranoia about Christian methods and motives is boldly underscored by the work of groups [who] are focused on helping people break the cycle of poverty … regardless of whether those they serve ever convert to Christianity or not.
Mr Seng demonstrates either an unwillingness or inability to consider counter-examples against his thesis when he equates Christian missionary work with the colonising work done in the past by the Catholic church, or with those who appropriated Hobbesean philosophy as a part of their missionary impetus. These are simply not representative of contemporary Christian missionary work, no matter how “academically” one tries to dress up the assertions.
Certainly ignorance and colonialist hubris have been characteristic of some missionary work historically, and those should be acknowledged, condemned and prevented from repeating. Indeed, the appropriate place for the “dead, white European male”, with his “white man’s burden”, is somewhere in a crypt in Paris or London. However, many current missionaries are more aware of the evils committed in the name of God than critics like Mr Seng, and are eager to avoid those evils.
Mr Seng has succeeded only in attacking a straw man. It is easy to knock down straw men. It is much more difficult to acknowledge your own prejudices and to admit the atrocities which can be born from them. It is much harder to find fault with, for example, those missionaries who are eager to communicate love, value, and worth to young girls sold against their wills into prostitution – again, regardless of whether those same girls ever become Christians or not. Stone-throwing from ivory towers should not be permitted to hinder such worthy work.
Cambodia’s heritage of religious tolerance is commendable, and right. It implicitly gives credit to the discernment and intelligence of the Cambodian people, and provides a context in which good examples can shine and proliferate and bad ones be shamed and eliminated.
Cambodia’s history provides some sobering lessons about what happens when intolerance runs amok. As the government of Cambodia contemplates the balance between religious freedom and regulation of religious activity (Christian or otherwise), I urge it to recognise prejudicial intolerance like Mr Seng’s for what it is, and to leave it out of their consideration.
Florida Christian College
I have a lot of concern about Christian proselytizing in Cambodia. However I recall an interesting conversation I had with a Catholic priest in Battambang about 12 years ago.
His work was at a center for invalid and orphaned Khmer children. He said that their work was more about saving their own souls rather than those of their beneficiaries.
As for other missionary groups in Cambodia I can’t say. But I found this priest’s statement encouraging.
I have tried to abstain from responding to David Peters, a philosophy professor of Florida Christian College who wrote a letter titled “Beware of hidden prejudice”. But his repeating rhetoric of “prejudice” pointed at me has daunted me ever since.
While he accepted the reality existed in my thesis or assertion about the behaviors of previous Christian missionaries, he linked my hypothesis to the present and entrapped me in his assumption as I am “prejudice”.
I have no prejudice at all to both previous and current Christian missionaries, but I just elaborated some aspects of Christian missionaries. In America, to call someone prejudice or he/she has been found prejudice rigorously faces adverse consequences in society.
Cambodia has pursued the policy of plurality and democracy according to national constitution, and any regulation or enforcement will not be influenced by me like what Mr. David described “As the government of Cambodia contemplates the balance between religious freedom and regulation of religious activity (Christian or otherwise), I urge it to recognise prejudicial intolerance like Mr Seng’s for what it is, and to leave it out of their consideration.”
I do take responsible toward my letter which did not directly accuse or defame any individual. I have really been dismaying the letter by David Peters.
Ph.D student in political science
University of Hawaii at Manoa