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Plugging the Planet Into the Word

Children in Rong Domriex, Cambodia, learn to read by following along in their books as they listen to a New Testament passage read on tape.
Children in Rong Domriex, Cambodia, learn to read by following along in their books as they listen to a New Testament passage read on tape. (By Mary Jordan -- The Washington Post)

But he said the globalization of religion means that there are now more American Buddhists and more Cambodian Christians.

In Rong Domriex, the farming village where children play knee-deep in the rice paddies, a local Christian pastor said he believes maybe half of the 11 children in Im's literacy class will become Christian.

"Whether they follow Jesus Christ or not is up to them," said Dom Saim, the pastor and a former Buddhist.

Im's father, Sum Tel Thoen, 37, a fisherman, said he didn't care that Christians were teaching his daughter. "It doesn't matter if my daughter is Christian. My focus is education," he said. "I can't read or write. I want my daughter to."

He said he was pleased that his daughter was dreaming of getting a job someday, now that she can read, instead of spending her days collecting firewood. Brushing her black hair away from her large brown eyes, she said matter-of-factly, "I am too poor to go to school."

Her father said that he, too, was learning about the new faith from Im. He stood next to his daughter as she described Jesus.

"He says, 'Don't steal other people's property, and if someone scolds you, be silent and don't scold back,' " she said, holding tightly to a paperback Bible, the first book she has ever owned.


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