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

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The dilemma of Duch

Today, the man who was in charge of the infamous Khmer Rouge S21 torture facility, Kaing Keach Eav, better known as 'The Duch' went on trial. The Khmer Rouge security apparatus killed as much as 500,000 Cambodians, while about 2 million perished during the 5 years the Khmer Rouge held power. Duch, the only Khmer Rouge leader ever to have confessed, is the first of 5 leaders to be tried for those atrocities.

It is without doubt a milestone event for Cambodians, many of whom remain bewildered by what had happened, and seek some form of closure to that very painful and horrific period of their lives.
But Duch has not made things easy for the Cambodians nor the watching world. He has not denied his role in the atrocities. He has not only confessed to them but has asked for forgiveness from the relatives of his victims. The only Khmer Rouge leader to have done so. Apparently in 1995 (some 14 years ago), he had become a born-again Christian.

It would have been so much easier if he had remained evil, unrepentant and fought all the way to his conviction. So much easier to hate, and to exact retribution under those circumstances. But what do you do when your most hated enemy confesses his crimes and asks for forgiveness?

We have no means of determining the genuineness of his conversion. Only God knows what is in his heart. But his apparent outward peace, the dignified way by which he handles himself as he confronts his own crimes, and his public acceptance of any punishment due points to some truth in that conversion.

Exacting retribution is easy. Dispensing forgiveness not. Whether Duch truly repents is probably unimportant to most Cambodians. He deserves a guilty verdict for all that he has done, and was responsible for. And he should not be spared the full weight of the law. But this trial will not bring easy closure for the Cambodians. Healing will not follow swiftly. Even more so now than before, Cambodia needs God.

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