About Caritas Cambodia

Caritas Cambodia is an official social development arm of the Catholic Church in Cambodia. . It has been built on the values of Love, Concern, Justice, Peace Unity, Sharing and brotherhood. It draws inspiration from the Gospel and aims at integral development of people irrespective of race and creed. Hence the objectives of Caritas Cambodia specifically include the following.

  • To promote and strengthen activities that are aimed at the integral development of communities particularly to help in Sustainable Agriculture, empowerment program, economic program, Welfare program, Vocational Training, comprehensive health program, Home Care program for persons with HIV/AIDS, Centre for Child Mental Health, Blindness prevention program, Relief and Rehabilitation program.
  • To channelize the energies of our people towards constructive national work in the socio-economic, educational health and the cultural field.
  • To cooperate and collaborate with government and NGOs both national and International whose objectives are in accordance with the aims of Caritas.
  • To launch sustained campaign for relief of people affected by disasters like drought, Famine, floods, earthquake, war, fire, riots and other man made and natural calamities.
  • To educate people and make them conscious and concerned about self-reliance social justice, cooperation and related human values.
  • To involve directly or through Church structures wherever available in the promotion of Human development.
  • Solidarity and partnership with the poor and the marginalized. Journeying with the poor, discernment and discovering.

Caritas Cambodia remains committed to:

  • The development of poor and the marginalized.
  • Educate the poor to look at critically the social forces, which keep them in poverty and build their capacity to fight against poverty and misery.
  • Make them conscious and concerned about human values, dignity and self-reliance.
  • Appreciate people's perspective to their problems, programs and development

History Involment of Caritas in Cambodia

Caritas Cambodia has two histories in the past 30 years. In 1970, the Catholic Church in Cambodia organized an Aid Commission to help the victims of war. This Aid Commission took the name of Caritas Cambodia that was also recognized by the Caritas Internationals and accepted it as a full-fledged member in 1973. This Caritas functioned till 17th April 1975, the date when Khmer Rouge took over the political power in Phnom Penh. There was not only the closure of Caritas Cambodia and all religious activities but also there were the Vietnamese Army overthrew genocide of 1.7 million people out of the total 8 million Cambodians this regime in 1979.

Though after the Pol Pot Regime people who fled away have came back to their places in the country, practicing religion was fully banned under the Communist Regime. This continued till March 1990. In April 1990 freedom to practice religion was given to Cambodians.

The Beginnings 1990 – 1998

It was in 1990 that the Secretary General of Caritas Internationalis and Secours Catholique of Paris came together to Cambodia and registered an organization under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Cambodia as an Antenna of Caritas Internationalis. The former present Bishop of Phnom Penh. Emile Destombes M.E.P returned to Cambodia in 1989. He was expelled in 1975 during the Pol Pot Regime. Bishop Yves Ramousse was the Bishop and was the first President for Caritas Structure. In 1997, Fr. Emile was ordained as Co-adjutore and in 2001 he became Bishop and in turn became the President of Caritas Cambodia until late 2006. In December 2007 Mgr. Enrique Fiqaredo (Kike) the apostolic vicariate of Battambang diocese became the president of Caritas Cambodia.

 

What Does Caritas Mean?

The word Caritas comes from Latin. It means Charity and Love. The name connotes the Church’s efforts to bring compassion and love to humanity.

The Church In Cambodia

The Catholic Church was established in Cambodia 500 years ago. On April 17th, 1975, Church was banned, the Church religious leaders were expelled and practice of any religion was prohibited by the Khmers Rouges, later the Vietnamese overthrew the Khmers Rouges and took control of Cambodia and maintained the ban on religion. The missionaries present there, in particular the MEP fathers, were forced to leave the country.

In March 1990 after the fall of the Khmers rouges, religious practice was once again authorized and people were allowed to practice their religion. But Church as an institution had to find means to come back into Cambodia. At this juncture, the religious authorities present in Cambodia, prior to the Khmer dictatorship, were ready to stage a comeback but intended to do it progressively. The best way for the Church to comeback into the country was through the social activities which was also a dire necessity on the aftermath of the Khmers Rouges retreat. Wanting to be very cautious in a very vulnerable and uncertain political situation, Church opted to come under the banner of social work. Consequently, Caritas Internationals played an important role in negotiating with the new leadership in Phnom Penh, to get the Church in as a social work organization. As such Church came into Cambodia as an antenna of Caritas Internationals to carry out social activities in the new Cambodian society. Fr. Emile Destombes was sent as a Caritas Internationals representative to initiate Caritas Cambodia, antenna of C.I. and he was soon followed by Mgr. Ramousse and Fr. Francois Ponchaud, Paradoxically, Caritas came to existence first and facilitated the entering of the Church into Cambodia. It was only at a later stage that the Church was recognized as such by the Cambodian government and was allowed to work as such. Today Caritas Cambodia exists as a faith based NGO and the Church does exist as an institution.

In any case, as on today, the Church is a minority institution. The Catholics are about 60 000 in number, about of which only about 7 000 are Khmer. The Khmer catholic community is very poor. The Church in Cambodia is totally supported by the religious community from all over the world All the Church structures are managed by foreigners, except Caritas which has got a Khmer leadership today. The biggest challenge is the future of the Cambodian Catholics and the future existence of the Church with a Khmer identity. A few Khmer priests have been ordained in the last few years. At the same time, there is an important solidarity within the Catholic community.

System and Organizational Structure

Since 2004, Caritas Cambodia’s management is Khmer. However the basic management structure needs to be reviewed in light of the present structural planning. The institutional management is ensured by:

  • A council including the bishop and the secretary general and deputy secretary general, meeting twice a year
  • A governing body insisting of the chairman, secretary general, deputy secretary general, coordinators and programs directors, meeting three times a year and whenever needed. The chairman is the bishop in charge of Caritas.

Organization Structures:


Human resources: Good management structure exists since the beginning of the organization based on ‘Rules and conditions’ which will be updated. Promotion is concretely encouraged whenever it is possible, through the process of annual appraisals. Gender balance is taken care of in both hiring processes and promotions.

Finance: is centralized at the national office which consolidates the regional and national finance with specialized software. It is recommended to implement a new system both at regional and national office, which will improve transparency and accountability.

Decision-making: Participatory approach is promoted in decision-making processes at all levels. A core-team at the national office level exists to ensure this. This still needs to be implemented at the regional and grass-root level.Projects implementation: Caritas Cambodia works in 3 main sectors: health, sustainable agriculture, and youth development.7 programs (divide into different projects) were running in 2005 in 6 regions of Cambodia.

Communication: effective infrastructures are available at the national office, but communication means are weak at the regional level.

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