Visiting A Mosque in Cambodia
This writerÂ’s work in Cambodia as an independent
volunteer over the last 15 months has involved
teaching a daily Yoga and Buddhism class at the local
provincial prison from Monday to Friday each morning
at 9 a.m.
For many of the men who come to this class, it is
their only opportunity to leave their large rooms that
serve as a confinement area for them.
The conditions in which they must live are quite poor
compared to what prisoners in the west experience. In
fact, seeing how they are confined makes the prisons
of the west look like institutions of enlightenment
and higher learning.
My work in teaching these men has of course led me to
get to know them and their situations and individual
stories better and I have become interested in
assisting them in other ways that are possible for me
This has started to include things such as providing
health and educational resources for them.
This includes actions such as providing notebooks,
pens and English language material so they can learn
and improve their English, talcum powder and medicine
to deal with skin problems, mats for them to sleep on
and shirts, blankets and jackets to keep them warm.
We have also, based on past experiences with life, men
and prisoners recognized that every man be given the
opportunity to learn about, study and practice his or
her religion or spiritual belief.
It was with this in mind that during our recent stay
there, we attempted to find a spiritual teacher and
advisor for the five Muslims in the prison.
This necessitated a visit to a local mosque.
Having been involved with Islam in the past and
visited mosques in Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan,
Bangladesh and Nepal, among other countries, I was
quite happy with the idea of visiting a mosque, but my
young Cambodian translator was quite nervous about it.
He had an unreasonable fear, as we all do or have had
from time to time, in thinking that something was
threatening to his person, that being visiting a
He was surprised when upon the visit to mosque and
meeting with the local Muslims who were there that
they were so friendly and supportive of both our idea
This is the way it is in life, that being that when we
overcome our fear and ignorance, we can see and learn
something new, both about ourselves and others that is
important to experience.
Any kind of fear, or anger and ill Â– will, or an
ongoing critical attitude to and condemnation of
others does nothing more then keep us and the world in
If we can open our heart and mind just a little bit to
others and see where they are coming from with greater
compassion and clarity, we can experience something
that will give us greater understanding about
ourselves and life, and make us wiser and more
peaceful and focused along the way.
Â©2007 John C. Kimbrough