Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Forgiveness


I met Sokreaksa Himm at a ‘Leadership Seminar’ and immediately I was captivated by his testimony. He was recommending his book, which tells his story how the Khmer Rouge soldiers killed his family. I was surprised that there was no tinge of vengefulness in this man. What I saw was a quiet, serene, unassuming person who seems to possess a sense of confidence and peace. Without hesitation I bought his book. I told myself that this is the man I want to talk to.

For the next few days during the seminar, I probed him and listened intently about his testimony. His memory went back to the day when he saw his father, mother, four elder brothers; one elder sister, one younger sister, four younger brothers, a sister-in-law and a nephew were killed by the soldiers in 1977. The family was marched to a grave ready dug in a jungle clearing; one by one they fell as the hoes hacked down. Sokreaksa, severely wounded, was covered by the bodies of his brothers and sisters. He was nearly choked to death by the pool of blood covering him. The murderers walked away, laughing.

Sokreaksa survived miraculously, but the nightmare of haunting memories tortured him for years. How could God exist to allow such colossal injustice to take place? He almost lost his entire family except another sister who too escaped death. His Buddhist belief collapsed and so was his personal world. His guilt compounded when he was told that all these evil things happened to him because of his bad Karma. The people in his village commented that he must have done many wicked things in his previous life. Now he was merely reaping what he had sown. For a thirteen years old boy, it just did not make any sense. His young mind and fragile emotion could not cope with the emotional trauma let alone the philosophical teaching about suffering. Into the depth of despair he plunged. He wanted to take revenge but was powerless to do so. After all at he was only a small boy. He wanted to die but could not. He vowed that one day he would kill all the murderers. For years the worms of anger, bitterness and vengefulness gnawed at him.

In December 1978 Cambodia was invaded by Vietnam. Pol Pot regime was dismantled and it was estimated that 3 millions out of a population of 8 million people were massacred in the killing fields. Life could not be back to normal because not a single person in Cambodia was unscathed by the trauma of brutality inflicted upon him or her. Though the Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror was over but the many continued to suffer from Post- Traumatic Stress Disorder. For years Sokreaksa suffered from deep depression. He had only one aim in life. He vowed that when he grew up he would search for the killers and cut them into pieces. So he joined the police force and managed to track down the person who killed his family. The killer begged his forgiveness, he refused to forgive but he was unable to trigger the pistol and kill the one kneeling before him. Life was difficult; finally he left Cambodia and ended up in a refugee camp in Thailand and for 5 years he drifted through life aimlessly. The Christians in the refugee camp tried to reach out to him but he remained unmoved by the Christian message. Eventually he applied to migrate to Canada and his application was accepted.

In a new country Soreaksa began to rebuild his life. It was the persistent love of Christian workers from World Vision that finally won him over to Jesus Christ. For the first time he understood the meaning of suffering when he read about the crucifixion of Christ. He felt that God understands his suffering and pain because he too went through it at the cross. Soreaksa went on to study theology in the Bible College and obtained a Master degree. He returned to Cambodia and became a lecturer in a Bible School in Phonm Penh. Later on he decided to return to his village Siemreap and planted 3 churches there. It was there that he again met up with the person who killed his family. This time he was able to forgive the killer and released him of his guilt.

I was spelled bound and deeply moved by his story. I have read and heard sermons about forgiveness. I too had struggled with wrongs and injustices inflicted upon me but nothing came closer to what Soreaksa had gone through. Here was a man who truly knows forgiveness. Christianity makes sense because the truth is fleshed out in real life.

4 comments:

Alex Tang said...

Hi Fong Yang,

True forgiveness is so hard to find. In the meantime, we struggle with our little petty unforgiveness.

Wong Fong Yang said...

Hi Alex,
Thanks for your comment. How's ministry in Holy Light Church?

Fong Yang

Yong Yi & Sharon said...

It is certainly amazing when we hear and read of lives like Soreaksa, who display such evidence of forgiveness and love. Thanks 4 sharing! Sharon.

Anonymous said...

"It would be silly for Myanmar Christians to remain silent. A day would come when the country is liberated and they would not have a voice in nation building because they failed to show solidarity with the people."

Pastor, you shared this with me once, and I know it is your thought all this while. This is what spurred me to take part in politics and social actions.

And I have to learn, and am still learning, how to extend forgiveness to my political enemies, to the government who wronged us, to the corrupted leaders who robbed us our wealth.

It is easy to raise one's fist and shout revolution, but it's a totaly mind boggling and otherworldly thing to say "Father, forgive them".

Steven Sim