The Vision of KIAA, the Khmer Inheritance Artists Association
By Sophun Ty, Director of Ministry and Training
Some people believe that Cambodians should reject all of their arts and culture when they become Christians. However, the Apostle Paul would not agree with that idea.
In fact, he wrote to the Corinthian church: “I have become all things to all men,that I may by all means save some.” My purpose is to describe the vision of Khmer Inheritance Artists Association (KIAA) for using Khmer traditional arts in our ministries of evangelism, Bible teaching, and worship.
One aspect of the KIAA vision is to bring arts that God has created so well to glorify the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, since He was the Creator of everything in the first place.
Human beings tend to love art because they are created in the image of God, who was the first Great Artist. However, people who have become disconnected from their Creator and entangled with the world, tend to use arts to glorify themselves or to worship created things instead of the one true God. Particularly in Cambodia, where the love of art is so deeply ingrained in our Khmer culture, KIAA seeks to reunite Cambodian people with their Creator, without having to totally disconnect ourselves from our traditional arts and culture.
In support of this, another aspect of the KIAA vision is to restore and preserve our Khmer traditional art forms that were almost destroyed by the Khmer Rouge regime.
This is one way to attract the positive attention of Cambodian people, since they appreciate those who try to rescue their traditional arts. Although much of the story content of the traditional Khmer arts is antithetical to Christianity, there are still a lot of good moral elements there that coincide with Biblical teachings and are worthy of being preserved. Khmer Inheritance Arts Association (KIAA) focuses on creating presentations of the Christian story of Cambodians,. Now expressed through the familiar form of our traditional cultural arts.
As a result, a third aspect of the KIAA vision is to give birth to new songs, dances, dramas, visual art, and literature based on the scripture of the Bible. These Christian works of art are expressed through the traditional cultural styles that Cambodians love. And because these new works of art are Bible-based and culturally appropriate, they are powerful tools to use in our ministries of evangelism, Bible teaching, and worship.
For our ministry of evangelism, KIAA presents culturally appropriate evangelistic performances around Cambodia, featuring music, dance, drama, preaching and testimony. Periodically, my wife Reaksmey and I have gone, and plan on going, on evangelistic tours outside Cambodia, for example to America and Europe, taking teams of dancers and musicians. In our education program, which includes both arts and vocational training, we especially teach the Cambodian students how to use the arts as communication tools. We are particularly training both young and mature arts students in the Word of God in order that they will understand the importance of using creative methods to communicate the gospel message and discipleship in following Jesus, God’s Son.
As part of our ministry of Bible teaching together with the traditional arts, KIAA presents “Arts in Christian Ministry” workshops at churches, organizations, to establish the biblical basis for Christian arts ministry and to encourage creativity.
In the future, KIAA has a vision to establish a Christian arts school for every province in Cambodia. Since the students and staff of KIAA are mostly the poor in this country, providing more centers will provide more hope for disadvantaged Cambodians. In addition, the rapid multiplication of trained graduates who will become teachers and worship leaders for the Cambodian church will cause Christianity to spread more rapidly throughout Cambodia.
This KIAA vision for using Khmer traditional arts in evangelism, Bible teaching, and worship is also my personal vision—a vision that assures me that my life will have eternal meaning as I faithfully follow God’s call to accomplish His creative work through Khmer Inheritance Arts Association.
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May God bless you all
Sophun Reaksmey and KIAA CHILDREN
https://youtu.be/hmxBwePKJuA Victory Drum Dance
https://youtu.be/yr4Gk9K-CM4 The Lord’s Prayer