Cambodia’s population is approximately 15 million. Due to the massacres of the Khmer Rouge, Cambodia has a very young population. (One third of the population is under the age of 15.) The median age is 21.7 years, and only 3.6% of the population is over the age of 65. Cambodia’s birth rate is 3.37 per woman; the infant mortality rate is 56.6 per 1,000 live births. As of 2010, the life expectancy is 60 years for males and 65 years for females. The literacy rate is 73.6%; however, they have the approximate U.S. equivalency of a 4th grade education. By some estimates around 80% of Cambodians are connected to subsistence farming. CCM has a tremendous outreach to these villages.
The Killing Fields
The Killing Fields are a number of sites in Cambodia where large numbers of people were killed and buried by the Khmer Rouge regime during its rule of the country from 1975 to 1979. Analysis of 20,002 mass gravesites by the DC-Cam Mapping Program and Yale University indicate at least 1,386,734 victims of execution. Estimates of the total number of deaths resulting from Khmer Rouge policies, including disease and starvation, range from 1.7 to 2.5 million out of a 1975 population of just over 8 million. Researcher Craig Etcheson of the Documentation Center of Cambodia suggests that the death toll was between 2 and 2.5 million, with a “most likely” figure of 2.2 million. Some estimate over 3 million died.
Cambodian journalist Dith Pran coined the term “killing fields” after his escape from the regime. A 1984 film, The Killing Fields, tells the story of Dith Pran, played by another Cambodian survivor Haing S. Ngor, and his journey to escape the death camps.
Open Door for the Gospel
Whereas many world religions are resistant to the Gospel, Buddhists and Muslims in Cambodia are very eager to respond to the message of Jesus. In Cambodia, there is limited infrastructure for healthcare, manufacturing, education, etc. There is also limited religious infrastructure as well. About 95% of the population is Buddhist; however, many do not have a strong commitment to Buddha. There are also 1 million Muslims; many of them are open to the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Why Cambodia now?
Brand New Country
It has been a little over 30 years since the Pol Pot regime (1975-79) tortured and executed approximately 3,000,000 innocent people. The Killing Fields’ victims included doctors, nurses, teachers, business people, government officials, Buddhist priests, Islamic clerics, and other educated people. People who wore glasses, or had indentations on their fingers from writing, were seen as oppressors who needed to be eliminated. Because of Pol Pot’s evil rule a whole new infrastructure is being built. In addition, the religious landscape is also being re-drawn.
Few Government Restrictions
At the present time the door is wide open to share the Gospel in Cambodia since the loosely organized government has few religious restrictions.
Failed Religions of Buddhism and Islam
The people are searching for something and someone better than the failed religions of Buddhism and Islam.
Receptivity of the Gospel
Many are being brought to the Lord, just as one reads in the book of Acts. The spiritual conditions in Cambodia are truly amazing; we have a great opportunity to take God’s word into that poverty-stricken, war-torn country to save these precious souls. The growth of God’s spiritual kingdom is only limited by the number of workers willing to go into the field of harvest. Cambodia is one of the most fertile mission fields in the world today. Most will respond to the call of Christ if someone will share Jesus with them. They are truly that receptive! Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor” (Luke 6:20). Cambodia is a 3rd world country (and would be a 4th world country if there were such a thing.) When you say the name of Jesus in Cambodia people gather round to hear the Good News!
Love for Americans
Most Cambodians love Americans, and they trust us to help them when we share the Good News with them. They want what we have…especially the spiritual dimension.
Gospel Hub for Southeast Asia
Cambodians travel in and out of neighboring countries (including Communist ones). Other Asians freely travel in and out of Cambodia. This increases the possibilities of sharing the Gospel with their neighbors: Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, China, etc.