Festival attracts crowds of children
PSAR LEUR, Cambodia — Children and youth came in record numbers to a Cambodian Baha'i festival which attracted high praise from government officials.
"In the previous year only 400 children attended the festival but this year we decided to invite 300 more," said Mr. Kanna Baran, one of the organizers of the Festival held on 30 March 2003 at the Psar Leur Baha'i Center in Battambang.
"Eventually, however, some 1050 arrived," he said.
The event is held to create an opportunity for children and youth of all social classes to meet each other and also to give provincial authorities an overview of the Baha'i educational program for children.
Although organizers were surprised at the big turnout, they coped well. The 15 volunteers in the kitchens stepped up their efforts and managed to provide everyone not only with a breakfast but a satisfying lunch as well.
It was a festival in which children presented stories about 'Abdu'l-Baha, recited quotations from the Baha'i Writings, made drawings and displayed their art, performed traditional Khmer music and dance, and played games together.
Among the senior government officials present was the Director of the Battambang Education Department, Mr. Khuon Chhoeut, who delivered an address in which he said he was proud and excited to have been invited to attend.
First, he praised the education provided by other religions in Cambodia, and then he focused on the Baha'i community.
"For children and youth, becoming Baha'i is really a very good thing. If all the children would follow and obey this religion then it is a very great thing," he said.
"All religions have their Holy Writings and all are good, especially when we know how to protect ourselves from fighting and quarrelling."
"To have progress and development in our region, you should follow and obey what is found in the Holy Writings, observe and follow them properly to make all of you good citizens in this country and the whole world."
The director's sentiments were echoed and added to by the Director of Religions Affairs for Battambang, Mr. Dy Somaly.
"I would like to thank all of you who helped in spreading the Baha'i Faith in the province of Battambang, in educating the youth and the children, thereby making them good children, as what one of the Khmer proverb says: 'The young bamboo shoots replace the old ones.' Therefore children and youth must become good people."
No religion guides people to be bad, he told the children, so they must remember that all religions are good and that they should never argue with believers of other faiths.
Among the Baha'i guests were four members of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Cambodia and two Auxiliary Board members.
The festival ended with an exchange of flowers and gifts.
The Festival in Battambang followed another successful children's festival held in Saang on 27 March 2003. That event attracted 400 participants.