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A “United Nations” Pickup Truck



Ad Gentes Project in Cambodia

10/11/2009: Cambodia

It is not a powerful 4x4 truck with tinted windows, radial tires, reinforced cockpit or other special features. No trademark, seal or logo appears on its doors, no special plates with white letters, no powerful telecommunications antenna. Nor will you find any “blue helmets” riding inside.

But the vehicle is an expression of what might be deemed the United Nations, because crammed inside you will find: two South Koreans, a Ghanaian, three French people, two Colombians, an Ecuadorian, a Zimbabwean, two Italians, four Cambodians (including two ethnic Vietnamese) and an Indian. The various skin tones, countenances, and hair styles - male and female - match the concert of languages that can be heard. Native tongues and foreign are spoken with the particular accents which arise when all are doing their utmost to be understood and to understand!

The goal of the journey is simple: to visit the buildings which are slowly rising, eventually to comprise a school, a library and a job training center. And after the school is built? Well, then the local children and youth will have access to the kinds of knowledge and skills which can answer to their hopes and dreams of a better future.

Brothers Francis Attha (Ad Gentes Project leader in Cambodia), Leonard Brito and Diego Zawadzky went to Prey Veng at the invitation of Bishop Antonysamy Susairaj, Apostolic Prefect of Kompong Cham, to attend the monthly meeting of Christian community leaders. The pastoral services of the Prefecture are under the direction of the following groups: the Thai community of Sister Lovers of the Cross, the Sisters of Providence of Portieux, the Paris Foreign Mission Society, the Yarumal Foreign Mission Society of Colombia, the Korea Mission Society and the Italian Mission Society.

Our intention is twofold: to demonstrate in concrete fashion our resolve to advance in the acquisition of the Khmer language by visiting different villages; and to explore the possibilities of a Marist presence in the northeastern sector of Cambodia which ranges from the Mekong River to the border with Laos and Vietnam.

Participating in the meeting on this occasion gave us the opportunity to attend the consecration of the new Prey Veng parish church (a simple, beautiful wooden structure that has reused some pillars from another building dating from the nineteenth century). Fr, Charlie Dietmeier, associated with the Maryknoll Lay group, informed us of a project for helping the deaf. The Maryknollers intend to expand the project into this part of the country. According to Fr. Dietmeier’s data, there are in Cambodia about forty-nine thousand deaf people of whom ninety percent do not receive the slightest attention. For example, they have not been able to develop any language of communication, a fact which makes them a highly vulnerable population, the poorest of the poor. One of the activities that may be undertaken on their behalf is related to the above mentioned school now under construction.

Our journey offered us a new opportunity to experience the presence of the Kingdom here and now: the Nations all United in the love of God, in response to His missioning, united in the desire to be the presence of the Church among the poor, in a spirit of community and solidarity.

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23)

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