Minority Converts in a Majority Church

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Bunong Encounters with Protestantism under the Khmer Republic (1970–75)

Conversion to Christianity among Southeast Asian highland minorities has been recurrently interpreted as a way of joining a valorised religion that distinguishes converts from often-Buddhist ruling majorities and sometimes as a means of adopting a ‘modern’ way of life. Neither of these explanations, however, seems to appropriately describe the situation of Bunong highlanders who turned to Christianity in Cambodia’s capital in the early 1970s. Under the pro-American regime of Lon Nol (1970–75), these spirit-practicing inhabitants of the margins were brought to Phnom Penh to enrol in the national army. Khmer majority preachers visited them and led them to integrate themselves into the Khmer Evangelical Church. As light is shed on the astonishing trajectories of these Bunong recruits, it becomes possible to reflect upon what ‘entering Christianity’ meant for them. They were few in number, but the particularities of their experiences highlight the importance of an unprejudiced approach to Southeast Asian highlanders’ conversions.

Date de parution: 
March, 2023
International Journal of Asian Christianity
Auteur(s) hors EHESS: 
Catherine Scheer
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