Christian Followers and Prime Minister Meet Once a Year
My wife and I are so happy today to start what is the first meeting but not the last one of course. I have conducted meetings with Buddhist followers through various Buddhist rites and with Muslim in their fast-breaking ceremony. As we are now meeting for the first time, I hope that if there is a request, we can work out our meeting to be on a regular basis like once a year. Thank you (for agreeing to that). From today on, the Ministry of Cults and Religion will have to coordinate with Prime Minister’s schedules and the community of Christian followers to set up a meeting time … Last night there were 13 Christian followers making comments in my Facebook. They asked if they could have selfie with me. They are from Pailin. I told them “definitely they can.”
Everyone Abides by Law, No Exception
Today, our meeting started with the report of Senior Minister and Minister of Cults and Religion Affairs. However, I have one personal matter to share with you. The police had fined me for abusing traffic law. This means that everyone, Prime Minister included, must abide by law. I hope that our Christian leaders will instruct their Christian followers to respect law. As a country, no matter what religion they hold, people must abide by law without exception. Every religion is equal before laws. Even Prime Minister must also pay fines for offense over law. Immunity defends you only when you are right. It does not defend anyone when s/he is doing wrong. When the person failed to show up in court in response to summons issued once and twice, (police would) have to bring him/her in. Please do not blame it as a political issue.
Harmonization of Religion and Ethnicity
HE Him Chhem made a point in his report that our meeting today is to discuss about harmonization of Christianity in Cambodia. Even though I am covering religion as a whole, I also have to advice harmony within Christianity itself. Why do we have to talk about this? In Cambodia, seeing in general, we have to work on two tiers. The first tier would be at a macro level, where harmonization of religion and ethnicity in the country is necessary because Cambodia has people who follow Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam. Secondly, we must seek harmony within each religion, Christianity also included.
Each religion composes of more than one sects of its own. Buddhism has two sects – Dhammayuttika Nikaya and Maha Nikaya, Islamism has numerous sects, while in Christianity there are Catholics and Protestants. According to the report I have here, in each sect, either Catholics or Protestants, there consists many other smaller sects. It is because of this that we must not overlook the Royal Government’s political agenda in defending ethnical and religious harmony in Cambodia. Negligence on these matters would cause disaster, though in our history, there was never ethnic and religious conflict.
These days, you may have seen what happened in Europe, which used to be in unity as European Union. The UK Prime Minister David Cameron declared he would step down after over 51% of the British people voted to leave the European Union. You can see that overall in Europe, differences exist between British and other nationals in the European Community. As we are experiencing harmonized religion and ethnicity, some countries in the region also have so many difficulties to go through.
Harmonization of Religion and Ethnicity – CPP Political Platform
After the liberation of 7 January 2016, the Cambodian People’s Party views harmonization of ethnicity and religion its political agenda, especially in my 31 years leadership as Prime Minister and 37 years as member of the Royal Government. I have given special attention on this matter. Let me have your attention that every individual is different and subjected to political direction and/or will of person responsible in leadership. Different people in position of Prime Minister might see things differently. Sometimes, change is not sure to be better. Some people have called for changes, but they ran away from law and some have made other people their enemy in the future. For example, they have accused better off people such as traders, industrialists, and investors as exploiters. It is a dangerous mindset judging by what has happened in the present world.
We have seen that there is grave danger when religious conflict arises. I have always been very careful on this matter. I dare not interfere in conflict of even a Buddhist pagoda. It was because of such conflict that we have noticed that in Cambodia there are sometimes two Buddhist pagodas in between with 100 or 200 meters. It often stemmed from conflict between Buddhist monk head in the pagoda and those under him – left-hand and right-hand junior monks. When conflict arises, Buddhist parishioners support one side or the other and those who had to move out of the Buddhist pagoda in conflict, would have to build a new one not far from there.
In Christianity, you also do not forget about this fact. CPP members are followers of Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam. I am a Buddhist follower and I just had a Ramadan-Iftar dinner with people who follow Islam on 14 June. Ten days later today I meet with Christian people. I bowed and chanted pray of Buddhism, I also got the blessing of Allah, and today of Christ, Amen. Attended various meetings conducted abroad on culture and religion, we have come to learn and be proud of the CPP and Prime Minister Hun Sen’s leadership, under which there was no religious and ethnic conflict. We must be vigilant though. We must encourage equal rights and footing. Though we belong to one religion, we must not forbid others from believing in others.
Refraining from Religious Insults
It is a true matter in the whole world. Looking at places in the world where there are religious and ethnic conflicts. In Nigeria, a group of guerrilla called themselves Islamists held young Catholic or protestant people hostages and killed many. We must not see this as act by Islamists. It would be wrong to say it is act of the State of Islam. I have posed this question about what happened in Europe many times in various forums. I also had ASEAN leaders’ attention to the fact that the cartoon feature published (by a magazine) was the cause of it all. Can Europe avoid that? Can cartoonist avoid making Mohammad or Allah their subject of cartooning? Some would say doing so is a hinder on rights of expression.
In Cambodia, among religions, we must do everything to avoid one religion infringing upon the other. Publishing cartoons of Allah and/or Mohammad would trigger so complicated problem to leadership in Muslim nations. Should there be a fight again, they could be in very difficult position whether to condemn it as terrorist attack, which would certainly have negative impact from Islam followers, or not? I am calling on all religions and religious sects not to molest or insult one another. I would suggest no threat from Catholics to Protestants and vice versa. I am putting out a principle upon which religions are making solidarity.
Secular World and Religious World
Different belief in, either sect or religion as a whole, should not be obstacles to hinder process of national defense and construction. We have similar need – independence, peace, political stability, and socio-economic development. As of this moment, we are making what we can to achieve higher growth. I am sure that every religion is teaching men to do merit things. While people are following their teachings, the state will benefit. I hope that priests, teachers, and leaders of Christianity will continue to join in this process with the Royal Government and other religions for national progress. In general, I used to mention about secular and Buddhist world. Now I am making it more global. It is secular world and religious world. If the people’s wellbeing is not good and the country is in war or insecurity, religion would not have a strong stance too.
We may loom at what happened in Middle East. Color revolution championed by some countries started from Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria, the removal of Saddam Hussein in Iraq also included, have led to what? It is speechless. Removal of Saddam, how many people had died? Removal of Muammar Gaddafi, how many people had died, as in Tunisia, in the case of Ben Ali, and in Egypt, in the case of Hosni Mubarak? Now to remove Assad in Syria, how many people died? Immigration floods into Europe. These are results of the color revolution or abrupt and informal change. Look what happened in the case of Ukraine. Color revolution in Ukraine leads to what – loss of Crimea. People who made their speeches about famous color revolution seemed to have kept silent.
I am a real Prime Minister. I am not a Prime Minister in example. People may judge whether they want real things or things that they have in hands or something others promised […] what I am asking from you is not much. Firstly, I am asking you to continue what we have been doing together. Each religion will strengthen their control and people – be s/he a priest, a teacher, etc. must be competent in what responsibility s/he has. I am calling for solidarity and conflict free in every mosques, churches, and pagodas. Where problem arises, I am urging your consultation, discussion, and resolve.
One way of avoiding conflict is not to bargain among people to become a religious follower. If you were to lure them for money, they would become members for money and not for faith. I am suggesting that it is a better way not to put pressure on people or lure them with money to follow one’s religion or sect. It happened in some countries already […] People will follow the three religions – Buddhism, Islam and Christianity until when they no longer have faith in them. Pol Pot uprooted religions in Cambodia. The regime ended, every religion came back to life.
I just received a letter from Prime Minister of the Netherland a few days ago. He recalled about our two countries’ trade relation in the 16th century. It was under the reign of Sdech Kan in Cambodia, when there was this coin called “Sloeng.” Most of Cambodia’s trade then was with Holland. “Sloeng” was made in Holland in 1514. On 28 June, there will be an election to choose members of the Security Council of the United Nations. Sweden, Italy, and Holland compete for support. I admire him and/or those prepared documents for him to have recalled trade relations between our two countries. It was a form of trading support on issue of membership of Security Council of the United Nations.
Defend Peace, Political Stability; Promote Household, Community and National Economies
Everyone should be aware that the country needs peace, political stability, economic growth, reduction of poverty, and improvement of people’s living condition. We must work in tandem to defend peace, political stability; and to promote household, community, and national economies. They are what our nation needs. I am sure you all will understand me and/or the Cambodian People’s Party better because you have been living in structure and respect of your religions under the time of Cambodian People’s Party’s or Hun Sen’s ruling. This meeting is not one for elections campaign. After we have everything set, we will have a meeting once a year. I will meet you again. I am not too old to do that.
Let All Religions Help with Human Resource Training
My last proposal is for every religion to help with human resource training. I am sure the Christian followers have been doing this works through their efforts to establish various orphanages, and human resource training centers. To make people strongly believe in one’s faith, one must have well educated human resource, who would be for the support of religion but also for national development. We have sitting here intellectuals from the Buddhist, Islam, and Christian backgrounds […]
I thank leaders of the Christian community for contributions they made so far to the defense and development of the country. We should see this effort as a machine. One part of it does not work, the whole machine will not. When some actors do not play their roles, not only the country will stumble, there will be many conflicts but even division. Stakeholders of all races and religions have made efforts to build up economy, to defend peace, territorial integrity and unity, and socio-economic development, to achieve 7.7% economic growth in the last 20 consecutive years […] I hope we will meet again next year in a bigger hall for bigger number of participants./.