Khmer in France

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Ari V - Shutterstock  All rights reserved.  Used with permission
Map Source:  Bethany World Prayer Center
People Name: Khmer
Country: France
10/40 Window: No
Population: 71,000
World Population: 16,283,100
Primary Language: Khmer
Primary Religion: Buddhism
Christian Adherents: 1.00 %
Evangelicals: 0.40 %
Scripture: Complete Bible
Online Audio NT: Yes
Jesus Film: Yes
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: Mon-Khmer
Affinity Bloc: Southeast Asian Peoples
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

The Khmer (or Cambodians) in France are immigrants and refugees from Cambodia and Thailand. The first Khmer to make their way to France did so in the late 1800s, when Cambodia was a French protectorate. These people were mainly from the elite classes; students, businessmen, and even members of the Cambodian royal family. More Khmer emigrated to France during WWI, but the numbers were not as high as they would be in the 1970s-80s.

Bombings from a civil war between the Cambodian government and communist rebels (Khmer Rouge), began a time of strife which grew worse with the Khmer Rouge being victorious and starting a five year reign of death and terror. Eventually the Vietnamese invaded Cambodia, putting an end to the Khmer Rouge, but beginning a time of foreign control. Through this time there was massive famine. Three million died in refugee camps; thousands of others escaped to sheltering countries, one of which was France. The Khmer who emigrated to France were usually from the higher classes, whereas the poorer ones were more likely to flee to either Australia or the United States. The largest Khmer diaspora is either in France or Vietnam.

The Khmer in France are usually in Lyons or the Rhone-Alps region.

What Are Their Lives Like?

Today, the Khmer of France live in inexpensive houses in the suburbs of Paris. The older generation still speaks their tongue, Khmer. Children who wish to learn to read and write Khmer attend classes run by volunteers. Almost all of today's Khmer in France speak the French language fluently.

They are well-educated. Many of the young Khmer in France have chosen to study either computer programming or accounting. The French government often hires them as bookkeepers and auditors for the monasteries. Whereas the young Khmer men in Cambodia often aspire to join the monastery, the Khmer of France show little interest in becoming monks.

What Are Their Beliefs?

Though they are officially Buddhist, most Khmer are not interested in religion. It has come to a point where women often lead temple activities while the men spend their time elsewhere. However, almost all would consider themselves Buddhist. After all, that is the religion of their ancestors.

In some temples, the monks are involved with horoscopes and healing rituals. The Khmer do not have sufficient space for large gatherings during their annual festivals so they must hire community halls. In Paris, such festivals take place at the International Buddhist Temple in the Bois de Vincennes. In Cambodia, most people support the monastery nearest to their homes. In France, they chose their monastery based on ethnicity, class, political persuasion, and attitude towards folk religions.

What Are Their Needs?

There was a lot of opportunity to reach the Khmer in France before they settled into their new culture and environment. Today it will be very difficult for them to have the spiritual hunger it takes to surrender to Christ. But God is a God of miracles, and he can change hearts even in difficult spiritual circumstances.

Prayer Points

Pray for spiritual openness to Jesus Christ that will not be hindered by the belief in religious institutions rather than the person, Jesus Christ.

Pray for an abundant blessing of Khmer families and communities in France as they embrace Jesus Christ, the Lord of Lords.

Pray for a movement to Christ that will enrich the Khmer community in France.

Text Source:   Joshua Project