Christians in Buddhist-dominated Cambodia are officially banned from evangelizing because they “disrupt society,” officials said Tuesday.
Cambodia’s Ministry of Cults and Religions declared that “Christians are prohibited from visiting people’s houses by knocking on the door and waiting to say ‘the Lord has arrived,’” in a directive, according to Agence France-Presse.
In addition, Christians are restricted to only distributing religious literatures in churches. Moreover, the ministry demands that it authorize the construction of a church before it is built.
“They can do any activity inside their institutions, but are not allowed to go door-to-door,” said Sun Kim Hun, deputy minister of cult and religion, according to The Associated Press.
The directive was dated June 26 but was distributed on Tuesday, according to AP. It is similar to proclamations issued in 1999 and 2003 and serves as a reminder to Christians. Violating persons and groups face possible prosecution.
Officials noted that although the new order applies to all non-Buddhist groups, its primary purpose is to curb Christian evangelism amid reports of children being tricked into converting, according to AFP.
Local media reported that Christian missionaries are accused of offering cakes and other sweets to children in exchange for their conversion to Christianity.
Furthermore, church groups offer food, clothing and free English lessons as a means to introduce people to Christianity.
In response, the directive directly bans using money or other means to persuade people to convert.
The ministry claims the groups’ tactics “disturb the daily lives of people and can cause other insecurities in society,” according to AFP.
Despite the allegations, Christians and Buddhists live together in peace for the most part, although there have been recent instances of sectarian violence.
Last year, some 300 Buddhist villagers destroyed an incomplete church building outside of the capital Phnom Penh, according to AP. In addition, church houses were attacked in 2003 and 2004 although no one was injured.
There are less than 70,000 Christians, mostly Catholics, and only about 170 churches in the Southeast Asian country in 2006, according to government figures. According to the CIA World Factbook, 95 percent of Cambodia’s 14 million people are Buddhist.