Religion in Cambodia

Buddhism in Cambodia

Wat ream CambodiaTheravada Buddhism is the religion of between 90 and 95% of the Cambodian population and particularly among ethnic Khmers. In Cambodia the Buddhist way of life and Cambodian culture are inseparable, with the belief that each individual is fully responsible for their own actions, good or bad. There are three concepts to Theravada Buddhism. The first is ‘Dharma’ or Buddha’s guide to a good life. The second is ‘Karma’, where believers are rewarded or punished on the basis of their actions. Lastly is ‘Sangha’ or life in a strict community, which improves man’s karma. Nirvana is the final extinction of the self, which all aspire to, but only a few attain. Living as a Buddhist involves a life balanced between strict ascetism and decadent sensuality. Buddhism has taboos and rituals which cover all aspects of life from birth to the grave.

Islam in Cambodia

religion mosque boeng kak phnom penhMuslims make up only 1% of Cambodia’s population and are mostly from the ethnic Cham group. This minority of Muslims splits into two groups. Sunni Muslims follow the traditional rules of Islam, praying five times a day. Fojihed Muslims follow an ancient Cham interpretation of Islam, only praying once a week. Many of this sub-group still believe in pre-Muslim beliefs of magic and the supernatural. By praying, they achieve an internal power called Chai. The Koran is currently being translated into the Khmer language, but cannot be translated for Cham Muslims, as Cham does not have a written language.

Christianity in Cambodia

religion St-michael-church-sihanouk-villeAfter Pol Pot’s Killing Fields of the late 1970’s only some 2,000 Christians remained in Cambodia.Today, less than 1% of the population of Cambodia have access to a church and diocese and live as practicing Christians. 75% of the country has no Christian presence.

Tribal Religions in Cambodia

Approximately 100,000 Cambodians living in remote mountain areas still practice some form of tribal worship, praying to their own forms of local spirits. These invisible spirits inhabit the world and air around them. Some are benign, others are malevolent. This tribal worship involves animal sacrifice, many taboos and the intervention of shamans.

 

Photographies : Monks make Mandala (Wat Ounalom) and Al-Serkal Mosque (Boeung kak, Phnom Penh) by Jason WastePhotography

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