kandal province, Lvea Em district, Boeng Krum commune – Hundreds of villagers chanted “long live Buddhism” and “down with Christianity” as around 20 people knocked down and burned an unfinished Christian church being built in their village on Friday.
Local Christians said on Monday that Kandal provincial officials denied them permission to build a church, so they had built a house for their religious teachers that they planned to convert into a church at a later date.
The structure was about 80 percent complete when the mob of villagers descended on it on at around 9:30 am Friday morning, said Ros Sithoeun, 45, a Christian in Boeng Krum Leu village.
Ros Sithoeun said that 10 local Christian families had been worshipping in house since 2002, which is situated next to the pile of charred bricks and corrugated metal left behind after Friday’s arson attack.
“We talked to the Christian community in Phnom Penh and decided that there should be no problem because there is no law against building a house on private land,” Ros Sithoeun said, adding that the plan was to convert the structure into a church later.
“I could only smile with sorrow at the absurdity of it,” Ros Sithoeun said of Friday’s attack on the $4,000 building which was funded by donations from the Wesleyan Vigilance Church in Phnom Penh and abroad.
Lvea Em district police chief Deung Keung referred questions about the incident to district governor Che Saren, who could not be reached for comment on Monday.
Chap Yeun, chief of the Buddhist committee of Chrey pagoda in Boeng Krum Leu village, said that anger towards the Christian building started from mouth to mouth before his committee met on Thursday and decided to destroy the structure.
Young local people were calling Buddhists weak because they had let Christians move into the area, Chap Yeun said, adding that villagers are generally tolerant but became angry that the Christian community was building a second church in a commune that has only one pagoda.
“They can have one church and expand to whatever size they need,” Chap Yeun said, adding that churches convert people and the building that they destroyed was right next to the pagoda.
Papaya trees planted around the house and the building’s toilet were spared on his orders, he added.