Monday, November 14, 2011

RATANAK UK TEAM - Hope Where There Is No Hope

Comments from Steve Norman, Ratanak UK Director

Today has been a long day. We set out this morning for a visit to Tuol Sleng Museum in the heart of Phnom Penh. This former secondary school was turned into a prison of torture during the Khmer Rouge campaign between 1975-79. Between 14 and 22,000 people of all ages were systematically and brutally tortured to admit crimes against the revolution they had not committed. Each victim was meticulously photographed before being subjected to unimaginable horror. As I walked around I read of the Buddhist belief that unless a person receives a proper burial then they will wander around as ghosts and not find rest. This is a huge issue in this nation and, given that over 2.5 million people died at the hands of this regime, it is understandable why the faces of many are downcast for their relatives who they believe are still in this place.

From Tuol Sleng we took a 15km tuk tuk ride to Cheoung Ek – a genocide memorial and the final resting place for the thousands of tortured victims. Walking around this is a peaceful environment with large colourful swallowtail butterflies and dragon flies in an assortment of colours. And yet – only a few short years ago, while I was a happy 11 year old, thousands of people met their end with the cruel blow of a bamboo pole to the skull and babies were smashed against a tree which still bears the marks. Along the walkway bones and teeth are visible as the earth gives up the dead after the rains. To imagine this place back then is beyond imagination. It is a necessary experience and yet an unpleasant one. I have walked this path before 2 years ago and was saddened the – today I am broken.

I thank my Lord tonight for the stability of the nation in which I reside.

Tomorrow we will be visiting NewSong and Svey Pak. In the afternoon we will be at the kids club where we will join 350 children – many of whom are being subjected to sexual assault as I type. We will also visit The Sanctuary and Rahab’s house and see that there is hope even in this darkest of places. A hope that Christ only can bring.

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