The largest ever gathering of Christians in Cambodia takes place in the capital Phnom Penh this week.
Up to 30,000 people are expected to attend the Gospel Centennial Celebration to mark 100 years since the official arrival of the Gospel in the Southeast Asian nation.
Portuguese Catholic missionaries started arriving in the mid-1500s, but never stayed long, saying the locals were incredibly hard to convert.
France took control of the country in the mid 1800s after which a relatively small percentage of the population became Catholics.
Protestant missionaries from the Christian and Missionary Alliance arrived in Cambodia in 1923, but the following decades saw only marginal growth in Christianity.
The fallout from Vietnam wars involving French, American and Chinese troops saw more Vietnamese Catholics arrive, but it’s estimated 80% of local Christians were murdered in the Killing Fields along with two million others at the hands of Pol Pot’s brutal Khmer Rouge regime in the late 1970s.
It’s only since the 1990s and the staging of ‘revival’ rallies by foreign evangelists like Franklin Graham that Christianity has taken off in Cambodia.
Some estimates say Christians now make up 2% to 3% of the population.
The Gospel Centennial Celebration will take place on the island of Koh Pich in Phnom Penh on Friday and Saturday.
Christian Broadcaster FEBC Cambodia has been helping mobilise churches to organise the event.
It will provide live coverage for 16.5 hours a day on its radio frequencies and will also stream the event on social media platforms.
Director Samphal Makara says it will be a huge celebration.
He expects many believers from foreign countries to attend the event which will reflect on how Christianity has grown across the country over the past century.
He notes that over that period: “We can see that the Lord really did much work from 1923 to 2023. It’s really amazing from generation to generation.”
“We can see that God has been very faithful. He has blessed Cambodia,” he added.
“We are seeing more and more churches planted around Cambodia.”