The Place of the Skull
I asked my Jesus to let my heart break for these people. Now, I wish I could cry to let the pain out of my heart. Yet, maybe, I am always supposed to hurt, lest I forget.
It was on Wednesday morning that the two other WATER girls on my team and I set off alone riding a tuk tuk through Phnom Penh. We were going to The Choeung Ek Genocidal Center or The Killing Fields from the Khmer Rouge. Upon entering, we paid and were given a headset which lead us on an audio tour around The Killing Fields. Below is a photo essay, with a few words, now and then to describe what we saw and heard.
A lake that bordered one side of the killing fields. It’s muddy right now, because of the beginning of the rainy season.
“It is better to risk killing an innocent person than to risk leaving an enemy alive.” –Khmer Rouge slogan
As I was walking on the path, I nearly stepped on this scrap of cloth, coming up from a grave. The case shows other such scraps that they have collected as they surface, particularly during the rainy season.
These dips in the earth are all sunken mass graves. At the most, they buried 300 at once.
The cracks in the skulls on the left indicate they were probably killed with a hoe. The holes in the ones on the right were probably killed with a bamboo pole. The soldiers of the Khmer Rouge did not use guns on their victims.
After getting lunch at a local restaurant, we went to S21. (I forget the official Khmer name…Toule something maybe.) It was a prison during the Khmer Rouge. The compound area was closed in by four, three-story buildings.
A picture of one of the prison houses taken from another prison house. Note the barbed wire window coverings.
These large empty rooms where these beds were in served a few different purposes. Some were rooms of torture such as ripping off fingernails, until the prisoner confessed a satisfactory, hoax crime. Other times, prisoners would lie on the floor, packed in so tight, that there was no room to roll over.
There are no pictures or words to tell of the atrocities of rape, forced marriages, and false accusations.
Why? One man, Pol Pot, had a vision for a country where everyone was on the same level. Using a his systematic plan and his people’s hatred against the Americans who were bombing Cambodia to cripple Vietnam, he sought to bring everyone back to year zero. The peasants who farmed and lived off the land were exalted, while the intelligent people like doctors and teachers were forced to leave their homes in the city. The soldiers either sent them to the jungle to farm and probably die of starvation or killed them at places like The Killing Fields. The mastermind responsible for this genocide that caused the death of 3 million people in less than four years time, served one year under house arrest, enjoying times with his grandchildren, before dying in his home at the age of seventy three.
Why? The injustice of it all boils up in me. How could a just, loving, all-powerful God allow such atrocities to go unpunished. “What about all these people who died without knowing you, God?!”
I couldn’t reconcile it in my mind, but I prayed, “God, I believe You are good. I believe You know what You are doing. I don’t understand.”
And to my mind He brought The Place of the Skull. Golgotha. Roman soldiers brutally whip an innocent man with thirty nine lashes. Forty one lashes would kill him. The soldiers responsible would be flogged themselves if they kill him. Therefore, they stop at thirty nine. After being kept awake through the night and being mocked, thorns are pressed into scalp and he is forced to carry a heavy wooden cross. The soldiers nail him to that cross, and he dies an innocent man. Completely innocent.
Why? To bring grace. You see mercy defies justice. My God loves Pol Pot and every other sinner. In God’s eyes, to think unkind thoughts towards someone, is to kill them. I am as guilty as Pol Pot. Yet, by God’s mercy, I stand redeemed. Now, I feel sorry for Pol Pot, because his chance for redemption is gone.
I praise my God for a hill called Golgotha, The Place of the Skull.