A Facebook invitation (which I will not link to, as I do not wish to name and shame), was recently brought to my attention. It stated:
“In collaboration with ********* and ******** in Cambodia, we bring you the opportunity to send handwritten messages to kids who may otherwise not know the meaning of Christmas!
All you need to do is go on the ******* website, scroll down, look for the purple box and post your message. We will hand write all your messages on a Christmas card and send it to children in Cambodia!
If you want a special pen friend to write to, we can also find you one! Come and help us spread the Christmas spirit!”
My reaction? ‘WHAT THE HELL?!’. Why do these people think that a bunch of Cambodian children care to be ‘enlightened’ about Christmas. Have they given any thought to this concept at all?!
Later that day, I read the event invitation to five of my Khmer workmates in the office. Before I had even finished they scoffed and asked me “What?!”. They could not believe what they were hearing. I asked them, “Would you want your brother or sister to receive one of these messages?” They all told me definitely not. Even one workmate who had to have the conversation translated immediately answered “Noooooo!”.
I believe in freedom of speech about religious and other beliefs, but I do NOT believe in donors and supporters enforcing their religious/traditional values on the population. This is a primarily Buddhist country, and although Christmas is celebrated by some, the majority do not. I myself am a Catholic, but I never preach about my God to my workmates, nor will I be celebrating Christmas this year. It will just be another day in the office for me.
Instead of wasting time and money preaching about a different culture to Cambodian kids, maybe people could do something more useful like make a donation instead.