Then the ones who pleased the Lord will ask, "When did we give you something to eat or drink? When did we welcome you as a stranger or give you clothes to wear or visit you while you were sick or in jail?"
The King will answer, "Whenever you did it for any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did it for me." .......Matthew 25

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Once a school...

In the middle of the city of Phnom Penh, approximately 2 kms southwest of the Royal palace, there is an iconic building known as the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. This used to be a high school (Chao Ponhea Yat High School) but was used during the Khmer Rouge rule as an interrogation centre (S-21, Security Prison-21). During those 5 years (1975-9), an estimated 17,000 ordinary Cambodians were interred, tortured and murdered by the officers and staff of S-21. This represents only a small part of the atrocities perpetrated through Cambodia during this time, but a visit to the museum is a must for all who go to Cambodia, as it provides a very vivid impression of the horrors and acts of inhumanity committed against the Khmer people by their very own leaders then.

I must have visited the museum at least 10 times, because each time I visit, there are always newbies that I accompany to the museum. No matter how many times I go, each visit is a very disturbing experience because I am reminded of the darkness and evilness that can reside deep within the souls of men. Yet on recent occasions, I have begun to find the atmosphere at Tuol Sleng mush less oppressive than when I first visited. Was this because the 'ghosts of Tuol Sleng' were beginning to find their rest? Or simply because I have become increasingly inured to the evil that was once there?

During the early years when we were there, everyone had a story to tell. And they told of their experiences as if they desperately needed to be told. Now when they are asked, they shrug their shoulders, recounting them matter of factly, and in measured tones....Have they found healing somehow? Or has it all been driven deep because the world has no time to listen anymore? How does one find healing after something so horrendous has torn your life apart? Can healing ever be found? I don't really know. But I do know that if true healing is to be found, it can only come through the saving Grace that Jesus offers. Justice sought through courts and tribunals may provide a means for some kind of emotional closure, but the true balm comes only through Grace.

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