BY BUTH REAKSMEY KONGKEA
The Cambodian Senate President Chea Sim has called on all Buddhist monks and other Buddhist followers to continue to support and maintain the beauty of Cambodia’s national religion, traditional culture, and civilization.
The President made this announcement whilst presiding over the 17th Annual Buddhist Monk Congress. This meeting was arranged by the Ministry of Cults and Religions on December 17-18 and took place at Chaktomuk Conference Hall in Phnom Penh.
According to Chea Sim the Buddhism in Cambodia is in the best of health and being a living, vibrant religion, has many worthy contributions to make.
He added that this is the result of peace, progress and political stability, established by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and the Royal Government of Cambodia under the leadership of the Prime Minster Hun Sen.
“Buddhism is a leading social and cultural strength. It is the state religion and has existed in Cambodia since the third century,” he said. “It is as important today as it has ever been that Buddhist monks, nuns, laymen and other believers continue to respect the religion and practice it according to its spirit.”
“I am delighted that Buddhist monks, nuns, laymen and other Buddhist followers have been untainted by corruption and have worked hard to strengthen and promote the culture of peace, tradition, progress and spirituality. These are all creations of Dharma preaching and teaching in Cambodia,” he told the Congress.
The President said that Buddhism provides a shining medium within which the nation can welcome the spirit of cooperation and advance the cause of peace and prosperity. This medium is illuminated from within by Buddhism. It serves as a lantern to guide the faithful towards moral conduct and spirit; it also shines a light into the darkest corners, leaving no shadows within which rancor, jealousy and violence can hide.
“I appeal to all Buddhist monks and followers of other religions such as Christianity and Islam to behave after the pattern of righteousness. In this manner we will all live in a country that is peaceful, stable and righteous. With these qualities working on our side, prosperity and abundance will surely shine in Cambodia,” he said.
“I declare that the Royal Government of Cambodia is committed to respecting the freedom of belief and religion, within the scope of promoting Buddhism and facilitating cooperation between religions. This will encourage basic solidarity between the peoples leading to political stability and social order. In short we oppose all discriminatory practices against any religions in Cambodia.”
The President noted that the study of Buddhism has contributed to Cambodian scholarship in general. Monks serve as strong pillars to society, contributing ideas to maintain traditional culture and civilization, both of which are keys to national identification.
He said that to promote the Buddhism, the government will be paying more attention to the study of Buddhism study and the training of Monks. There is to be a strengthening of the quality of the Monkhood, with leadership studies to play a central role. There is also to be an increase in the number of pagodas in both the cities and the countryside.
Min Khin, Minister of Cults and Religions, said that in recent years, there were many complaints about the behavior of Buddhist monks in Cambodia. Khin also referred to the many conflicts that had arisen over the years between the heads of Buddhist Pagodas and laymen or nuns in the temples.
The Minister noted that these conflicts happened because of the envy, bad blood and conflict of interests. He said that these profane incidents had necessarily had an impact on the soul of Buddhism and the religion’s adherents in Cambodia.
The Minister said that to strengthen and promote the Buddhism in Cambodia, the Ministry of Cults and Religion, in collaboration with the highest ranking members of the Monkhood have been laboring to strengthen discipline, structural leadership, pagoda governance, Buddhist study and spreading the message of Buddhist Dharma to the people.
The Minister continued that his ministry will continue with the implementation of the Cambodian Government’s Rectangular Strategy in order to maintain the peace, political stability and ensure poverty reduction in Cambodia.
He said his ministry has also been conducting meetings with Monks, workshops and annual conferences in Phnom Penh. These meetings have sought new designs and information to control, improve and promote the Buddhism in Cambodia. Regarding the 17th Annual Buddhist Monks Congress 2008, he said that attendance numbered around 800 monks, nuns and laymen from 24 cities and provinces.
He said that the conference would examine the entire spectrum of the Monk’s activities, responsibilities and duties. It provided the ideal environment for the exchange of ideas and news of improved methodologies to be used in the advancement of Buddhism in Cambodia.
“I strongly believe that through such activities as these, we can maintain, develop and strengthen our Buddhist monks and followers. They are to be trained in the steps necessary to ensure the perfect expression of the religion in Cambodia,” he said. “I am also confident we will able to maintain and generate the culture of peace, political stability, solidarity and development through the work of Buddhism. I believe this work will have repercussions throughout eternity.”
In closing the Congress, Prime Minister Hun Sen has appealed all Cambodian Buddhist Monks to respect “the Rule of Buddha”, following revelations of a series of crimes involving monks.
Samdech Hun Sen said, “Buddhist monks should respect the “Rule of Buddha” and they should never be involved with activities that bring our national religion into disrepute.”
The Prime Minister said, “If a Monk makes dispute I will not help and I will turn my back. Monks should never blame citizens when they lose confidence in Buddhist monks.”
Min Khin said that according to report, a total of 11 Buddhist monks have been charged with robbery, rape and murder in 2008.
According to a Ministry report, modern Cambodia is a spiritually active nation. There are a total of 4,307 pagodas housing 55,583 Buddhist monks; in addition, there are 244 Muslim Masjids catering to 320,167 believers; there are 25 Churches for Catholic worshippers, numbering 8707 believers and 218 Protestant Chapels in Cambodia.