Learning the secret of happiness

In 1991, in Phnom Penh, he founded Banteay Prieb (‘The House of the Dove’) for children maimed by landmines. There, the children find space and support to grow. People with disabilities can also get help to build wheelchairs here. This project has earned Bishop Kiké the nickname of ‘Bishop of wheelchairs’!

In Battambang, where he leads a community of about 5,000 Catholics, he founded the Arrupe Centre. Here, he has promoted development throughout the diocese with educational projects, professional training for adults, infrastructure and humanitarian aid. He says:

‘We have founded schools for disabled children, centres for vocational training for women, hospitals to assist the sick’

For Mission Month in October, a team from Missio Australia visited the Bishop in Battambang. Bishop Kiké shared about the evangelical work of ‘restoring dignity to mutilated children’, so that they can continue to live smiling.

‘Today, Toi [one of the young people] said something very beautiful. He said: “In the future I want to be happy”. And the secret of happiness, he told me, is that everyone takes care of the other, within the family, the village community. Brotherly love is the key to happiness. It is the testimony of faith that I receive from little ones and from the poor, who evangelize us every day’.

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Meeting God in other people

The Apostolic Prefect continues:

‘God told me that I can meet Him in people: the poor, the marginalized. He gives me the grace to see the sparks of His presence. It is truly enlightening for me to go and visit remote villages. An elder told me about their difficult life, but he spoke with a serene outlook on the future. We are together, he said, to build the future and we trust God. This is what I learn from them, this look of faith touches my heart’.

A Christian giraffe?

The Bishop takes the image of the giraffe to explain the mission of Christians in Cambodia. It seems a strange idea at first, but once he explains it, it makes so much sense. The giraffe is a gentle presence: not violent, but vigorous.

‘The giraffe has the biggest heart in the animal kingdom, even bigger than the elephant’s: it means for us a heart capable of love, strength, compassion. In addition, thanks to its size, it has a panoramic vision. it can look far away: a sign of spiritual vision and the gaze of faith on life. It lives peacefully in the savannah with many other different animals. For us, this means knowing how to remain in dialogue and pluralism, as a small Christian community in a predominantly Buddhist country, promoting peaceful coexistence between cultures, ethnicities, different faiths’.

The Catholic Church in Cambodia is a community of about 20,000 faithful, out of about 16 million total inhabitants of the country. The Church celebrated 465 years of the presence of the Catholic faith in the country in 2020, which arrived in 1555 with the first Dominican missionary Fr Gaspar Da Cruz.

Help us to reach out around the world in faith and friendship this year! Donate to Missio today>>

Original story and photo from Fr Fons at Mill Hill Missionaries

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