Cambodia bans Christian proselytizing

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PHNOM PENH – Cambodia has banned Christian groups from door-to-door proselytizing and is seeking to limit other religious activities by non-Buddhist organizations, which it says disrupt society.

A directive from the Ministry of Cults and Religions obtained by Agence France Presse on Tuesday said: “Christians are prohibited from visiting people’s houses by knocking on the door and waiting to say ‘the Lord has arrived’.”

Distribution of religious literature will also be confined to churches, which now must be approved by the ministry before they can be built, the directive said.

While the ruling applies to all non-Buddhist groups, it is aimed at curbing Christian evangelical influence in largely Buddhist Cambodia amid reports of children being tricked into converting, officials said.

Christian missionaries are reportedly offering cakes and other sweets to children in exchange for abandoning Buddhism, local media said.

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Food, clothing and free English lessons are also offered by many church groups, which then introduce religion into their activities.

“It is prohibited to use money, materials and other means in order to convince followers of a religion to convert to another one,” the ministry directive said.

The groups’ tactics “disturb the daily lives of the people and can cause other insecurities in society,” it added.

The directive follows similar orders issued in 1999 and 2003. Groups violating the directive face possible prosecution, the ministry said.

Cambodia’s non-Buddhist minority, which is mostly Catholic but includes Mormons and other evangelical groups, lives largely at peace in the country, but tensions have flared in the past.

Last year, hundreds of villagers shouting “Long live Buddhism, destroy Christians” tore down a house belonging to a Christian teacher outside the capital.

Church houses were also attacked in 2004 and 2003. No one was hurt in the incidents.

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AFP (France), via ABS-CBN (Philippines)
July 17, 2007

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This post was last updated: Tuesday, July 17, 2007 at 3:41 PM, Central European Time (CET)