Cambodia’s Challenges Today
Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in the world. Over one-third of the country lives on less than 45 US cents a day. Cambodia’s average income is rising, but still well behind other nations in the region. Part of the problem is that the country’s policies and history of instability do not foster trust among businesses and foreign investment.
Unsanitary conditions and malnutrition contribute to the poor health of Cambodians. Most children are severely under weight and height. According to a survey authorized by the World Health Organization (WHO), 75 percent of adult Cambodians who lived through the Khmer Rouge era suffer from extreme stress or post-traumatic stress disorder. Children of that generation do not fare much better. Families—Families are fractured in Cambodia. It is not uncommon to find families without fathers. Mothers tell familiar stories that their husbands left them for another wife in another village. Gambling and domestic violence often plague families.
Cambodia faces narcotics-related corruption. Cambodia is vulnerable to money laundering due to its cash-based economy and porous borders. Many young Cambodians turn to street drugs to deal with stress.
Women and children are often trafficked to Thailand and Malaysia for forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation. Men are often sent to Thailand for labor exploitation in the construction and fishing industries.
Only 37 percent of Cambodia’s adult population is functionally literate.
Buddhism is the national religion of Cambodia. Khmer are not forbidden to convert to other religions; however, at a local level, social pressures are an obstacle to conversion. In some rural settings, villagers blame Christians for bad luck and unfavorable weather conditions. Families often feel rejected when a family member becomes a believer.
Pray for the Church in Cambodia
The church has grown significantly in the last 15 years. From a small remnant that survived the Khmer Rouge genocide… the church is now young and enthusiastic with a natural flare for evangelism. Although written resources are scarce, there is a wealth of indigenous songs and hymns of worship. Such rapid growth presents challenges in the areas of discipleship and leadership. The quantity may be increasing, but quality and depth still seem to be lacking. Many of those who profess faith in Christ seem to fall away at the first sign of difficulty.
Pray for lifelong commitment to Christ. Although the church in Cambodia is growing, the challenge of reaching the unreached remains. Most of Cambodia’s cities, towns, and district centers now have a church. But the rural areas where most of the people live still have little Christian witness. There are significant Christian populations among a few of Cambodia’s tribal people such as the Jarai; but many of the other people groups have few or no believers. Pray for a complete harvest among each of Cambodia’s ethnic groups. Pray that the reached tribes will send out workers to those that remain without the gospel.
The presence of foreign missions and the funds they bring with them has led to its own set of problems. Inappropriate use of foreign funding has left many churches dependent on outside help, slowing down the move towards self-sufficiency and self-governance. Disunity, fragmentation and competitiveness for these funds continue to affect the church.
There are current attempts to unite under umbrella groups such as the Evangelical Fellowship of Cambodia. Pray for further strides towards unity. Pray for the Holy Spirit to direct mission efforts to use funds to extend the Kingdom of God rather than for denominational goals. Pray that the church in Cambodia will unite under the banner of Christ and spread His Kingdom.
Produced by the U.S. Center for World Mission
Print Prayer Guide
Cambodia is a nation with a broken past, a result of two recent wars and the purges of the 1970s. The effects of the devastation are still felt today. Spiritually, Cambodia has been under the sway of Buddhism and animism, but God is at work in this broken nation. The Cambodian church, nearly eradicated through persecution in the 1970s has grown from a few thousand to nearly a quarter million today. The “Pray for Cambodia” print prayer booklet leads you to pray through several aspects of Cambodian society and the spiritual needs of the nation.
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