Cambodia has suffered from many years of civil war, violence and authoritarian rule. Although it gained independence from France in 1953, it later faced intense bombing during the Vietnam War and then the brutal Khmer Rouge regime which carried out a genocide in the late 1970s. Following a 1991 peace accord, the country was ruled briefly by a United Nations mission before elections returned power to the people of Cambodia. Since 1997, the country has been governed by the Cambodian People’s Party.
After decades of instability, Cambodia has progressed to become a dynamic emerging economy within ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations). At the same time, however, the gap between rich and poor has increased and this gap also reflects an urban-rural divide along social and economic justice lines. A majority of rural people are engaged in agriculture and are living in poverty.
Jesuit Service Cambodia (JSC) is the main apostolate of the Jesuits in the country, who come under the Korean Jesuit Province. The work in Cambodia began in 1980, under the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), which sought to accompany returnees from refugee camps in Thailand. In 1994, JSC took over from JRS and was established as a local NGO (non-governmental organization) working in cooperation with the Ministry of Social Affairs of Cambodia and concentrating on the most disadvantaged people in the country. The earliest work of JSC was a vocational school for persons with disabilities and this population is still a major focus of its work.