The effects of the Khmer Rouge still linger. As we get to know Cambodian culture, the effects of the Khmer Rouge provide an avenue into our learning about the culture.
- A nation suffering from PTSD. This, in a sense, seems to encapsulate where Cambodia is up to. The effects of the Khmer Rouge run deep and long. It has affected every aspect of society and will effect the culture for a long time; much like the effects of war seen in PTSD sufferers (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder). You see the suffering in differing ways. Some will be dealing with their past, by not dealing with it – running headlong into materialism to forget or deny the past. Some deal with it by bringing the past too much to the fore. One friend said people speak about it so much that it is unhelpful. While it is good to speak about our past, there are helpful and unhelpful ways of doing that.
- Double youth boom. Cambodia’s age demographic is completely opposite to Australia’s. Where we have an aging population, Cambodia is heavily weighted towards youth, with 50% of the population under 22. This is the result of the Khmer Rouge’s policy, not only of ridding the population of the educated (those often with age), but also of the unable to contribute to increased rice production (generally those who were elderly or disabled). On top of this was the pregnancy push during the war in order to expand the working population. The effect down the line, now is not only were the elderly wiped out in Cambodia creating an imbalance in the country towards youth, but those youth have now had families bringing on a second youth boom.
- A loss of education. Not that education is gone completely, but killing off all the educated, combined with the survivors having grown up during a period of war means that education in the country has been significantly affected.
- Gospel openness. From what I have read, one of the unintended consequences of the Khmer Rouge has been to create a culture of openness in Cambodia in relation to international influences. Their need for assistance following the war seems to have made the country open to the outside world, more so than their neighbours. Global interaction in Cambodia through many international organizations has created a air of relaxedness to the outside world that may help pave the way for the gospel to be preached freely and openly. Also, having witnessed the horrors of the Khmer Rouge, people may be more open to the good news of Jesus.
- Rapid development. Although more complex I suspect there is a link between the Khmer Rouge and the rapid development that the country, particularly the urban areas, are experiencing. The ashes of the Khmer Rouge have provided the space for an influx of money and development following and as a result of the war. And while much of the country remains in poverty, there is substantial development, particularly in Phnom Penh. People are saying that in leaving Phnom Penh and returning in 6mths time you won’t recognize the place because of all the change going on.
Here are five pictures of the current state of Cambodia following the Khmer Rouge as we think about sharing the good news of Jesus. Thoughts? Have you had a similar picture or different of Cambodia?