Buddhists Attack a Church in Cambodia

Country Has Seen Tensions With Vietnamese Refugees

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ROME, JULY 14, 2003 (Zenit.org).- About 100 Buddhists ransacked a church during a service on Sunday in southeastern Cambodia, an official reported.

«Yesterday, more than a hundred people ransacked the Christian church during Mass,» said Governor Hun Neng of the province of Svay Rieng, on the border with Vietnam.

The Buddhists invaded the church of Kok Pring, destroying the cross at the altar, breaking windows, and throwing Bibles into puddles of water, the governor said. It seems that the church was Catholic, although the governor was unable to confirm this.

The attack caused some injuries, the governor said. He didn’t elaborate.

The vandals accused the Christians of being contemptuous of the Buddhist community, who are a majority in this Southeast Asian country of 12.7 million. Police kept the Buddhists from destroying the building, the governor said.

In statements on Vatican Radio, Father Bernardo Cervellera, director of Asia News, explained that most Christians in Cambodia come from Vietnam. Tensions between Cambodians and Vietnamese sometimes lead to violence, he said.

«There is an influx of Vietnamese traders and refugees who arrive in Cambodia to work and then return to Vietnam,» Father Cervellera said. «Among them there are some Montagnards — Vietnamese Christians persecuted in their country — who seek refuge in Cambodia. This influx creates problems in the population and causes an outburst of Cambodian national pride which tries to defend itself.»

The priest believes that the religious element has no influence on these tensions, since the work of assistance to Christians — at least to Catholics — particularly in the educational field, is also at the service of Buddhists.

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