Former Newsweek Correspondent Writes on Conversion of Cambodians to Christianity

May 18, 2004

Source: International Herald Tribune

On May 18, 2004 the International Herald Tribune ran a feature article/opinion piece by James Pringle, former East Asia correspondent for Newsweek, on the conversion of Cambodians to Christianity. He writes, "As if being desperately poor was not enough, billboards in this dusty former Khmer Rouge village in a malarial zone in northwest Cambodia warn children against picking up metal objects. They graphically illustrate a farmer blowing up on a mine. Pen Rim, 44, a one-time Khmer Rouge soldier, looks like he stepped from such an illustration. He has only one arm, now clutchng a Khmer-language Bible. His other was lost to a Soviet mine as he cleared land formerly occupied by the invading Vietnamese army. Pen Rim says he has become a Christian. 'Before, as a soldier, I did not believe in religion,' he said as we sheltered from the glaring sun beneath his rickety, stilted home. Other former guerrillas, some with wooden stumps for legs, sat around listening. Since the death of Pol Pot, the movement's cruel, charismatic leader, Pen Rim has adopted Jesus Christ, as it were, as his new 'Brother Number One'...These Red Khmers may be self-serving new believers - 'born-again killers' rather than 'born-again Christians.' Or perhaps they are sincere. Who really knows? Yet their off-spring must be regarded as innocent. Like most impoverished Cambodian children, they crave education. No secular groups seem to assist them. And Buddhists, who again have a temple in Pailin, don't venture here. For now, the Good Samaritans have a clear pitch."