“Nambodia” Post 6 – The DC-Cam Center and Forgivness

I know this is a long post, feel  free to skip to the third paragraph if you don’t want to read the context (but the post was prayerfully therapeutic for me).

We grabbed lunch after our arrival to Cambodia and then headed out to the DC-Cam Center.  It’s an NGO with the purpose of remembering the genocide by documenting the myriad crimes and atrocities of the Khmer Rouge era and bringing those responsible to justice.

We received a thorough overview of the work and were took a tour.  In one room, they were converting all the data to microfilm and expressed that they will eventually upload it online for everyone to have access to.  They have staff dedicated to fundraising, a tech department, a team of writers that produce a lot of their own literature, books, brochures, magazines and they even have their own printing press. 

As we were climbing the stairs, a younger distinguished gentlemen  who asked us what kind of group we were.  We gave our introduction , we are a seminary,  religion students, yada, yada, and he said, “Religion students huh;  Let me tell you a story …”  He was sharp, well-spoken, had commanding attention and to summarize he basically said, “Religion in the face of genocide does not offer much.“  He gave us the horrific numbers (some estimate up two million people killed by the Khmer Rouge), he told us about the Cambodians’ suffering, he told us that his sister that was taken by them and we all understood why he was angry (as one who could not imagine if such a thing happened to my sister or bother, I grieve with him). 

He wanted justice and it seems very clear that he is channeling all his energy to that cause (we later found out that he is extremely influential, very accomplished, and is doing great work in light of the genocide).  He said that forgiveness to him was prosecution of those responsible for this atrocity.  And while he admitted that his mother was able to forgive  (and that she was religious), he was looking for something greater, something more.   Everyone wished we could have had a one-on-one conversation with him but this was not the time.  Our brother Tom, thanked him for sharing with us and offered his sympathies on our behalf.  We knew that this was no time for a one on twenty debate and that listening was the appropriate response.

Adding to the irony of it was a sizeable framed poster that hung on a wall to his right that was for an exhibit entitled, “Forgiveness and Reconciliation”.  Wendy asked him about that and he quickly dismissed it as just a theme for an exhibit and reminded us that forgiveness was seeing the guilty come to prosecution.  He used the example of Khieu Samphan (aka the Duch) who is the first of the infamous 5 to go to trial (the others are dead or in hiding).  As the story goes, he becomes a Christian after going into exile, confesses to his heinous crimes, is arrested, provides an enormous amount of information for prosecutors against the remaining Khmer generals  and asks for forgiveness from the countless Cambodians whose lives he destroyed.   I need to do a little more research into this but at first glance, it seems that his Christian conversion led him to take responsibility for his crimes.  (Sorry I have a poor internet connection and want to quickly post this so I can skype with my wife.  I may try to add links when I get back.  Til then, there’s Google).

One of the greatest truths one can gain from Christianity is the understanding of forgiveness. It is only when we as fallen, depraved people take responsibility for our evil actions, our sin, our brokenness that we can experience the beauty of God’s forgiveness  through the sacrificial work of Christ.  I find that to be an incredible feature to this complicated story but I would still feel this way even if Samphan remained Buddhist.

I wanted to ask the articulate gentlemen what he would do if the prosecution does not render a decision that meets his demands of justice?  Or worse, what if the tribunal acts unjustly?   This is not to say that Samphan should be acquitted because of his Christian conversion, that is certainly not my case at all (he is seeking release and may God give wisdom to this tribunal) but my only point is if God can forgive him, so can we.  Further, I am more interested in the fate of his soul and where he sits in our memory than the fate of his remaining years in this life. Whether he be found guilty or not, he can be forgiven.

Forgiveness is the path to freedom in many ways.  It liberates us from our depraved fate of being aliened from God, it allows the only possibility for reconciliation between those who we have committed evil against  and seeking forgiveness is the only response one can make to the Risen Christ who suffered for all of us so that we may be redeemed.   It’s in that light that religion can stand in the face of genocide.

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