Mercy at a Glance

The Sisters of Mercy have been ministering in the Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam area since 1987 when Denise Coghlan rsm moved to Thai-Cambodia border and began her ministry with Cambodian and Vietnamese refugees displaced by the proxy war between the United States and Russia/Vietnam. This ministry was a partnership of Mercy Refugee Services and Jesuit Refugee Services.

In 1990, Jesuit Refugee Services discerned a response to the Cambodian situation in which the team developed three distinct groups. One group remained with the refugees in the camps until the final refugees were repatriated; a second group began working outside the situation to advance peace and reconciliation; and the third group formed a new group inside the geographic boundaries of Cambodia. Denise was asked to be part of the third group, and in this way became the first foreign sister in Cambodia after Pol Pot’s time in leadership in Cambodia (1975-1979).

Denise continues to work with Jesuit Services and its Cambodian team Metta Karuna (Mercy and Loving Kindness), that includes a number of Cambodians, some Providence Sisters, and some Jesuit priests from around the world. She coordinates educational, health, and rural development programmes in several provinces, as well as the provision of assistance for people with disabilities.

Cambodia has been severely impacted by landmines, and Denise is very involved nationally and internationally in the anti-landmine movement. She was part of the network of non-governmental organizations and individuals who led the movement resulting in the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty signed by more than 100 countries. She serves on the coordinating committee of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and continues to campaign for funding for victim assistance and mine clearance.