Billy Graham Evangelistic Association recently held its first rally in Cambodia, with Franklin Graham preaching before thousands in Phnom Penh. Organisers called it a “historic event” and the “perfect time” for the global organisation to encourage the faithful minority trying to reach their country for Christ.
Momentum around the spread of the gospel in Cambodia has been mounting for years, with another significant gathering taking place a couple months before.
In October, the government of Cambodia held its largest-ever meeting with Christian leaders, with Prime Minister Hun Sen addressing over 3,000 leaders representing more than 7,000 local churches. It was only the third time in the history of the predominantly Buddhist nation that this official gathering with the head of government had taken place.
Amid heavy security, smiles, and countless selfies, the prime minister entered Koh Pich Convention Centre in Phnom Penh. He addressed the Christians gathered and thanked them for their involvement in education, ethics, and social projects. He praised the church’s role in contributing to the peace and stability of the nation through promoting human dignity and unity.
Among the many leaders in the audience were the leaders of the two largest groups of evangelical churches in Cambodia: General Secretary Heng Cheng of the Evangelical Fellowship of Cambodia (EFC) and Pastor Uong Vibol of the National Christian Churches Network, Cambodia Council (NCCN-CC). The chairman of the board of NCCN-CC, Pastor Uong Rein, was appointed to help organise the church leaders and offer prayer for the prime minister and the Kingdom of Cambodia at the event.
The gathering has grown since 2010, when 400 Christian leaders first met with officials from the ministry of religion. At that first event, officials were presented with the Creation story using Cambodian music, dance, and drama.
A ministry partner from the US, who was there said it brought tears to his eyes as he prayed for the Buddhist officials who were watching. He said they were clearly moved and pledged continued religious freedom for the church leaders who, even then, represented almost every province in Cambodia.
In 2012, the Cambodian ministry of religion approved and attended the public celebration of Easter with worship organised by the NCCN-CC involving 18 different associations and denominations.
Nearly a decade later, the evangelical networks have continued their plan for church planting and evangelisation across the country, and only in May of 2017 did the prime minister begin to address Christians in large gatherings like the one in October.