Cambodia, bordered by Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and the Gulf of Thailand in Southeast Asia, is a country striving to rise from its scarred past. Its mostly Cambodian population speaks the Khmer language and endured many violent governmental changes in the last half of the 20th century. For the first time in many years, Cambodians are experiencing some measure of peace and freedom.
Invasions by its neighbors, the Vietnam War, and the ruthless Khmer Rouge regime have left Cambodians distrustful and guarded. The trauma from Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime (1975-1979), its mass evacuation of cities and towns, and the ruthless genocide of those they viewed as opposition can be seen across all generations. One result is that approximately one-half of the population is under 21 and uneducated. The economy also has suffered from the turbulent past, and foreign aid accounts for one half of the central government budget.
Since the 15th century, Buddhism has been the national religion in Cambodia. Today 85 percent of the population is Buddhist while just less than two percent is Evangelical Christian. In spite of past governmental attempts to eliminate all religions, Christianity has survived. Christians have worshiped openly since 1990, and indigenous church planters have established many new churches. The overwhelming social and emotional trauma of the past has left people open to the gospel. Mature Christian leadership is crucial to mobilize the churches to meet the needs of these people today.