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Jesuit involvement with Cambodia began in the refugee camps on the Thai border, first through the Catholic Office for Emergency Relief and Refugees (COERR) in 1979 and soon after through Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in 1981. The camps held 600,000 Cambodians who had fled from the civil war that ensued after the Vietnamese invasion and the subsequent collapse of the Khmer Rouge regime. Care for the disabled and education were the first priorities of the pioneers of the mission in the camps.
In 1990, JRS entered into an agreement with the Cambodian government allowing the pioneering group of Br. Noel Oliver, S.J., Sr. Denise Coghlan RSM, Sr. Marie Jeanne Ath CDP, and Fr. Jub Phoktavi, S.J. (then a lay volunteer) to enter Cambodia and begin operations here.
In 1994, what was initially JRS in Cambodia became Jesuit Service – Cambodia (JSC), allowing the programs and services of the organization to grow. In the same year, the mission was formally established by then Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Fr. Hans-Peter Kolvenbach, S.J., who entrusted it to the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific, then known as the Jesuit Conference of East Asia and Oceania.
In 1997, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), in which then JSC Director Sr. Denise Coghlan and other JSC members played key roles, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. JSC team member Mr. Tun Channareth, who himself lost both legs in a landmine explosion, received the award on behalf of the ICBL.
In the year 2000, one of the three administrative Ecclesiastical units of Cambodia, the Battambang Prefecture, was entrusted to the mission in the person of Msgr. Enrique (Kike) Figaredo, S.J. who was appointed as the Prefect Apostolic. This saw the scope of the mission expand considerably in reach and responsibility.
In 2006, the Cambodian mission was entrusted by Fr. Kolvenbach to the Korea Jesuit Province. Fr. Gabriel Je, S.J. was appointed as the first Delegate of the Korean Provincial to the Cambodia Mission in 2007. He was succeeded in 2013 by Fr. In-don Oh, S.J.
In 2014, the mission embarked on an education project in the remote Banteay Meanchey province. Xavier Jesuit School has four components: a community learning center, a small kindergarten, and primary school, a medium-sized secondary school, and a teacher resource center.
In 2019, Banteay Prieb, set up in 1991 by JRS as a place where people who had lost their legs or arms to landmines and other people with disability, celebrated its last graduation ceremony as the authorities in Cambodia want to use its land as a National Rehabilitation Center, a one-stop-shop where many organizations and services will be located. More than 2,000 young Cambodians with disabilities who have participated in the Banteay Prieb program could find a place of healing for hearts and minds while learning a skill that could help them have a job or income-generating opportunity.