"Choom reap soo-a" is the formal greeting in Cambodia, meaning "may I enter your space?'. East Anglian visitors are always greeted with enthusiasm and smiles from young and old alike: "welcome to the family', "join the celebrations', "enter our space'.
Entering the space of the Battambang Diocese is to find a world of care, compassion and love. Large centres such as Battambang, Svay Sisophon, Siem Reap and Kompong Chhnang are on the few main roads that exist in the region. From these centres there spreads a network, enabling the smaller rural communities to see and experience the caring work of the church.
After ten consecutive years of visiting Cambodia, I am still amazed to discover many new places where needs have been identified and help is being given or planned.
Although each community has its own problems, there is a willingness to work with the Church to benefit all the people of the area, irrespective of faith or none. And all done with a great smile and "orgOOn' [thank you].
The priests of our twin diocese work with the Sisters, Brothers and other organisations to show the true meaning of Christianity through practical support.
The bridge that has been built between the Dioceses of East Anglia and Battambang makes us all part of that process of faith in action.
Education, hygiene, medical help, housing, employment, cultural development and food are all concerns of the dedicated people who give so much of themselves to help the poorest of the poor.
This is perhaps best illustrated by the comment of one priest [sadly no longer with us]. Father Heri said: "I didn't come here to convert people, I came to love them".
That love stems not only from unshakeable faith in Christ but also from some of the basic Buddhist principles: Right Thoughts, Right Goals, Right Words, Right Deeds, Right Effort. Combined with "Love God' and "Love Thy Neighbour' our Cambodian friends offer us a great blueprint for daily living in peace and harmony.
East Anglia may give much to Cambodia but we receive so, so much more in return.
"OrgOOn charan Kampuchea' [Thank you very much, Cambodia].
Pictured above are Diocese of East Anglia visitors with a class in the Cambodian village of Peik Snaeg Chas which they taught every morning.