Today I met and read the Bible with three Cambodian friends who are curious to know more about the Bible and why Jesus is so important. Even though most Cambodians identify as Buddhists and consider this a Buddhist country, they are not turned off by Jesus or the Bible. They’re aware the world has been profoundly impacted by the life and teachings of Jesus. The other message they seem to have gotten from Christians is that they must believe in Jesus or go to hell.
That message scares them, but as scary as the threat of hell is to them, it’s not a compelling reason for faith. If anything, the fear of hell motivates them to look for a safe way out. I suspect many who encounter Christianity this way are wondering what is the minimum they can do to appease the God of Christians. Many will respond with a surface level change of religion. Not many will encounter the Jesus who offended religious people, who never indicated he planned to start a religion, and who spoke of freedom from the law and life by the Spirit.
To borrow a phrase from Bono, rock star/activist/theologian, Jesus sets people free to …
My first option for getting things done has often been to go alone and go fast–and then to endure and keep going. I like working with people. I really do. But it’s complicated, and then it’s messy; it’s easier to depend on myself. Like-minded groups of people do the same thing by keeping power and control to themselves, including people who work with the poor and dispossessed. When I’ve been part of groups acting this way, we’ve seldom gone far toward the kinds of change and lasting results we’ve longed to see.
The quote is specifically about peace. Not just a suspending conflict but embodying real peace in this world. It’s about transformation of people and communities, a long journey toward a peace that heals and lasts. It’s about peace that is local and hard won, concrete, not a concept or ideal of “world peace” somewhere out there. In short, it’s about going farther together and achieving something worth the wait.
If you want to check out the book, it’s called Reconciling All Things by Emmanuel Katongole and Chris Rice.
The video project I’ve been working on for the past year is online and available for free download here. The title is “Why Not A Family?” and the purpose is to raise awareness about better alternatives for the care of orphaned and vulnerable children. This video challenges the idea that orphanages are really a good long term option and suggests a better way.
Eighty percent of children in orphanages worldwide have at least one living parent. Nearly all have other living relatives who could care for them. The major problem is poverty and a lack of support for raising vulnerable children within their own families and communities.
Would you like to learn more? Go to unitingforchildren.org . I hope you’ll connect with the ongoing conversation using one of the social media links there, and then tell your friends.
I had a chance to shoot at Sovanna Phum recently, a great place to see Apsara and other traditional arts in Phnom Penh every Friday night at 7:30. Most of the performers are studying at the Royal University of Fine Arts.
I always appreciate the energy and color, and since I have a good relationship with them (having helped out in various ways over the years), I’m allowed backstage and don’t have to pay. My favorite performances blend art forms — Apsara, shadow puppets, and circus elements — with hints of modern style. I was pleased to hear some contemporary sounds coming from the traditional orchestra this time as well. It’s great to preserve traditions, and even better if you can keep them alive in the process. I got some nice that I’ll add to my Sovanna Phum Arts portfolio (above). Since the portfolio images are all in color, here are a few that begged to be seen in black and white.
Worlds collide and mingle in Phnom Penh’s Russian Market (Psar Tuol Tom Pong). It’s a local market that swells daily with local Khmer shoppers buying everything from vegetables and fresh fish to auto parts and paint. But half of the space is devoted to a thriving trade with tourists who come for a “market experience” to shop for all kinds of handmade crafts, gifts, and cheap knock-offs…