Jesuit Mission in Cambodia
In communion with the local Church, the Jesuit Mission in Cambodia is committed to the peoples of Cambodia, especially the poorest and most excluded. The Mission engages in collaborative efforts in education, formation and the building of communities of solidarity that promote integral human development, good and just relations with God, one another and creation.
As of April 2016, the mission comprised 32 Jesuit priests, brothers and scholastics – who work with more than 500 collaborators – religious sisters, diocesan and religious clergy, international lay volunteers, and Cambodian partners. Together, they administer an apostolic prefecture, parishes, schools, and student centres; manage programmes for poverty alleviation, ecology, rural development and special support for people with disabilities; advocate for peace and human rights, and against the use of landmines and cluster munitions; assist and accompany refugees; provide pastoral and spiritual care to various individuals and communities; teach in the university and seminary; and engage in inter-religious initiatives and local church development.
In 2014, the mission embarked on an education project in the remote Banteay Meanchey province. Xavier Jesuit School has four components: a community learning centre, a small kindergarten and primary school, a medium-sized secondary school and a teacher resource centre.
Jesuit involvement with Cambodia began in the refugee camps on the Thai border, first through the Catholic Office for Emergency Relief and Refugees (COERR) in 1979 and soon after through Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in 1981. The camps held 600,000 Cambodians who had fled from the civil war that ensued after the Vietnamese invasion and the subsequent collapse of the Khmer Rouge regime. Care for the disabled and education were the first priorities of the pioneers of the mission in the camps.
In 1990, JRS entered into an agreement with the Cambodian government allowing the pioneering group of Br Noel Oliver SJ, Sr Denise Coghlan RSM, Sr Marie Jeanne Ath CDP and Fr Jub Phoktavi SJ (then a lay volunteer) to enter Cambodia and begin operations here.
In 1994, what was initially JRS in Cambodia became Jesuit Service – Cambodia (JSC), allowing the programmes and services of the organization to grow. In the same year, the mission was formally established by then Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Fr Hans-Peter Kolvenbach SJ, who entrusted it to the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific, then known as the Jesuit Conference of East Asia and Oceania.
In 1997, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), in which then JSC Director Sr Denise Coghlan and other JSC members played key roles, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. JSC team member Mr Tun Channareth, who himself lost both legs in a landmine explosion, received the award on behalf of the ICBL.
In the year 2000, one of the three administrative Ecclesiastical units of Cambodia, the Battambang Prefecture, was entrusted to the mission in the person of Msgr Enrique (Kike) Figaredo SJ who was appointed as the Prefect Apostolic. This saw the scope of the mission expand considerably in reach and responsibility.
In 2006, the Cambodian mission was entrusted by Fr Kolvenbach to the Korea Jesuit Province. Fr Gabriel Je SJ was appointed as the first Delegate of the Korean Provincial to the Cambodia Mission in 2007. He was succeeded in 2013 by Fr Oh In-don SJ.