Tag Archives: Taiwan History

Advent Word 2017, Day 10 ‘watch’

#AdventWord #watch

‘”Come to your windows, people of the world.” WATCH for peace not war. WATCH for grace not greed. WATCH for mercy not money.’

Visit to the Taiwan Episcopal Church 台灣聖公會 of Bishop John A. Pinckney from Taiwan’s Companion Diocese, the Episcopal Diocese of Upper S. Carolina (EDUSC), October 1965.

Advent Word 2017, Day 6 ‘mend’

#AdventWord #mend

‘God does not see us as damaged, broken beyond repair, worthless offenders. God sees through mercy. God is in the business of mending, of making whole. As God mends our wounds, let us MEND the world God loves so much.’

Visit to the Taiwan Episcopal Church 台灣聖公會 of Bishop John A. Pinckney from Taiwan’s companion diocese, the Episcopal Diocese of Upper S. Carolina (EDUSC), October 1965.

St. Paul’s Clinic run by St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Kaohsiung 台灣聖公會高雄聖保羅堂

Advent Word 2017, Day 5 ‘heal’

#AdventWord #heal

‘Earth, air, water, and fire—these elements meet in us. This Advent we will not be only self-centered and pray for our own healing. HEAL the earth, we pray, and her elements—for such is the eternal trance of God.’

Visit to the Taiwan Episcopal Church 台灣聖公會 of Bishop John A. Pinckney from Taiwan’s companion diocese, the Episcopal Diocese of Upper S. Carolina (EDUSC), October 1965.

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St. Paul’s Clinic run by St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Kaohsiung 台灣聖公會高雄聖保羅堂 with Rev. Patric Hutton (left), US Episcopal Church missionary, who served as vicar of St. Paul’s Church, also Archdeacon of Taiwan.   This photo comes from the EDUSC Archives, but it was possibly taken in 1967, when the companion diocese partnership was already well-established, and an undated written EDUSC report says, in reference to St. Paul’s Clinic, “an x-ray room and store room have been added, thanks to aid from Upper South Carolina”.

Advent Word 2017, Day 1 ‘awaken’

Happy Advent Sunday! #AdventWord #Awaken

‘The Psalmist says: “Wake up, my spirit; awake, lute and harp; I myself will awake the dawn.” In Advent, we prepare for what God will do with our spirits, not what we will do. A certain church website offers the wonderful message, “…walk in the Way; widen the walls; wake up the world.” AWAKEN for others.’

AdventWord Global Advent Calendar 2017 starts today – a project of the Anglican Communion with the Society of Saint John the Evangelist Brothers SSJE and Virginia Theological Seminary VTS. Each day there is a theme word and meditation. My AdventWord photo each day will link to the theme (and maybe, but not necessarily to the meditation).  Today’s Advent Word theme is AWAKEN.

In October 1965, Taiwan’s first Chinese bishop, Bishop James C. L. Wong 王長齡主教 (Bishop of Taiwan 1965-70) welcomed visitors from Taiwan’s new companion diocese, the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina EDUSC, USA, led by Bishop John A. Pinckney (Bishop of EDUSC 1963-72) to visit the Taiwan Episcopal Church 台灣聖公會.  This led to a fruitful 6-year partnership. Under Bishop Wong’s leadership and with EDUSC support and God’s blessing, many of the congregations in Taiwan were able to build churches and establish outreach ministries.  My AdventWord photos come from the EDUSC Archives, taken by Bishop Pinckney and his group on that trip to Taiwan in 1965.

With grateful thanks to Bishop David J. H. Lai, Taiwan, and Bishop W. Andrew Waldo, EDUSC for their support.

(You may even notice that the top right photo in the collage is printed in reverse – guess it adds to the authenticity!)

Autumn Colours, Mountain Views! 台灣聖公會2017年蒙恩得福家庭生活營 Taiwan Episcopal Church Fall Trip 2017

Beautiful red maple leaves against a blue sky ~ now how’s that for a perfect picture of autumn?!

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And the best place in Taiwan to see maples in autumn is at the high elevations, up in the central mountain range.  So off we all went, all 60 or so of us, in a total of 9 (yes, nine!) minibuses, all in a long line.  Almost processional – well, after all, churches like ours are good at processions!  Large coaches cannot travel so far in the high mountains, so minibuses are ideal. The trip was 3 days and 2 nights, Tuesday – Thursday, and all were invited ~ and here we all are!

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The Taiwan Episcopal Church has organized many trips over the years, usually in the spring or autumn, to interesting places ~ like in November 2015, when we went to the Matsu Islands.  That was my first church trip.  And now this is my second.  I had managed to rearrange some classes, and most of the members of my Thursday afternoon class at St. John’s Cathedral actually came on this trip too ~ so I signed up – thanks to Bishop Lai and all my students!

Church members, their relatives and friends came from a wide range of the churches that make up the Taiwan Episcopal Church ~ we had 3 clergy, 3 clergy spouses, many energetic seniors, some couples, some younger working people and one lovely 3-year-old boy, who came along with his grandmother and her sister, and he only fell asleep once!

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We all met on Tuesday morning in Taichung, gathered from all corners of the country – and set off eastwards, up into the mountains.

The Central Cross-Island Highway from Taichung to Hualien was constructed in the late 1950’s, about the same time as President Chiang Kai-Shek and his government were establishing farms up in the mountains to provide employment for retired servicemen.  These days, the farms are still managed by the Veterans Affairs Council – together with the Tourism Bureau and some private companies – mainly for the benefit of visitors.  Visitors like us ~ and thousands of others who travel there every year.  We visited two of the famous farms, Wuling Farm 武陵農場 and Fushoushan Farm 福壽山農場, both places packed out with people enjoying the scenery.

When I left Sanzhi on Tuesday morning, it was, as always, raining.  It had already rained for 4 days, and so it continued, for all the 3 days we were away.  Cold too.  Miserable, in fact!  It is still drizzling today.  And cold.  But up in the mountains, there was blue sky every morning, all morning ~ and the clouds came rolling in beneath us in a sea of clouds every afternoon.  It did rain a little at night, but we never saw it.  Ah, it was wonderful!

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The highest point on the Central Cross-Island Highway is just below the very famous mountain, Hehuanshan 合歡山 (3,416 m).  Just nearby is Mt. Shimen 石門山 (3,237 m), well-known as supposedly being the easiest of the ‘100 Peaks of Taiwan‘ 百岳 to climb.  So up we went!  There was a biting wind, and it was 6ºC at the top – that’s very cold for us subtropical coastal dwellers!  Maybe a third of us managed to get to the top, where breaks in the clouds gave us great views down below.

The road has been badly damaged due to typhoons and landslides and earthquakes and everything else, and is still under repair in many places.  But our minibus procession got us through and down the other side to Lishan and then Wuling….

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We stayed the night at a hotel in the Wuling Farm area 武陵農場, about 2,000 m above sea-level….

And we woke up the next day to beautiful blue skies and autumn colours…

The nearby river is famous for its Formosan Landlocked Salmon (yes, we saw some, but they’re impossible to photograph!) and further upstream is the Taoshan Waterfall 桃山瀑布, known as the ‘Sound of the Mist’ Waterfall.  The walk there is 4.3 km each way – through the forest, and takes about 3 hours in total there and back.  It was my first visit ~ and we had a wonderful morning.  It is really beautiful!

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Nearby is Taiwan’s second highest peak, Xueshan / Syueshan 雪山 (Snow Mountain), which I went up in 2011 ~ this time we went up to the trail entrance to look at the view. The view is spectacular. And so are all the lovely people in our group!

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And then down to visit some of the Wuling Farm tea-growing area, and a small museum dedicated to what the farm was like in the old days….

We left Wuling and headed back to Lishan 梨山, where we’d passed through only the day before.  Lishan (literally means Pear Mountain) is home to the Atayal People 泰雅族, many of whom are Christians.  The area is also about 2,000 m above sea level, so lots of fruit and vegetables can be grown here that normally only grow in cold countries – like dear old England.  The steep mountainsides in Lishan are no longer covered in big forests of beautiful trees but instead are covered in fruit trees, and at this time of year there’s no leaves, and the fruits in season are covered in paper bags to protect them – so the mountains look bare – but covered in white flowers, which turn out to be paper bags.  They’re mostly apples, pears and peaches.  It’s amazing – and yet devastating – all at once, to think what amazing things man has done to produce all that fruit, and yet at what cost to the environment.  Reminds me a bit of the UK Lake District really – but just replace fruit with sheep!

Anyway, we went to buy some of the apples – oh, and cabbages….

Incredible clouds nearby….

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And no, it didn’t rain, eventually the blue sky came through!

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Oh yes, and a very regal line of trees….

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Fushoushan Farm 福壽山農場 is one of the Veterans’ Farms, very high up in altitude, and before it got dark, we just had time to visit Tianchi ‘Heavenly Lake’ 天池, where President Chiang Kai-Shek liked to visit when he was at the farm.  Check out his green house….

We stayed at the most amazing Lishan Guest House, just down the mountainside from the farm, and designed in the same style (and by the same architect, Yang Cho-cheng 楊卓成) as the Grand Hotel, Taipei. This was where President Chiang Kai-Shek and his wife stayed when they were in the area – but the building was badly damaged in the 1999 earthquake, and reopened in 2012 – as a hotel.  It is very very popular, and certainly scores 100% for atmosphere ~ all that red colour, and all those lanterns!  There are no lifts / elevators, and we were assigned the top floor – 3rd floor.  So me and Ah-Guan, good friend from St. James’ Church, Taichung, struggled up to the third floor – to find that we had been assigned the room next to the Presidential Suite.  It was a ‘hit the jackpot, won the lottery, gob-smacking moment’ lol!

We were clearly in the room that originally would have been used by the presidential bodyguard, and the most amazing thing was that we had access to the presidential balcony.  This was the balcony with THE VIEW!  And so we spent a happy hour or two welcoming all our friends to come and have a look!  The presidential suite, as far as we could see (from peering in the windows!) has been left much as it was when President Chiang and his wife stayed there – we could see into a tea room, and into the mahjong room at the end….

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That evening, after dinner, and after the Atayal Concert, we had a short service in the hotel dining room for our group.  Ah, what a happy evening, and what a wonderful group of people!

Next morning, Thursday, yesterday in fact, and I was up bright and early (well not very bright, but certainly very early!) to see THE view across the mountains…..

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See the Taiwan flag? From directly outside the presidential suite, it’s positioned exactly right in the centre of the ‘V’ in the mountains…. how’s this for a view?!

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The hotel and the whole area is very atmospheric.  Ambiance, man, it’s all about ambiance!

And so after breakfast, and more tours of our presidential balcony, we packed up, checked out and spent the morning at the Fushoushan Farm.  What a place, and what a history!  It is famous for a huge pine tree with an interesting story…

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And even more famous for its Apple King Tree, with over 40 different kinds of apple grafted into one tree…

We had a tour of the farm….

And finished with the maple trees area near the main entrance, where a zillion people were taking a zillion photos, ah, it was photo-heaven!

And so it was reluctantly time to say goodbye to the farm and head back over the big mountains, westwards… but first a photo-stop near Hehuanshan, at the Central Cross-Island Highway summit (3,275m) – the highest point on the highest main road that crosses northern Taiwan, and a major destination for cyclists!

Follow my finger and in that direction is Nanhu Big Mountain, (the one on the left of the pointed one!) which we climbed in 2012…

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This is a gathering of all from Advent Church, plus Mr. Di, our tour leader (third left)….

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And finally to lunch, and back to Taichung High-Speed Rail Station to return to our separate destinations…. and I got home at 7:30 pm.  And guess what, it was still raining in Sanzhi, in fact it hadn’t stopped all the time I’d been away!

A big thank you to our leader, Mr. Di Yun-Hung ‎(狄運亨) for planning and managing the whole trip, along with a tour company team who drove us in their minibuses, and organized all the routes and meals and everything. It was a wonderful trip – the highlights being the waterfall, the maple leaves and of course the presidential balcony views…..

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But it was also wonderful to be together with such a lovely group of people, renewing old friendships, making new ones, enjoying time together, taking lots of photos of everyone in different groups, and having a lot of fun!

And finally, thanks be to God for His amazingly stunning creation ~ and the colours (and miracle) that is the season of autumn ~ YES!

Four Four South Village 四四南村, Taipei

There’s no escaping Taipei 101 ~ it towers over everything in the Xinyi District of Taipei ~ including the old military dependents’ village of Sisinan 四四南村 (Four Four South Village), which is high on the list for tourists, who love taking photos of Taipei 101 and in front of the coloured doors.

The buildings have a lot of character….

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But it’s really hard to get all of Taipei 101 and the old buildings in the photo – diagonal is the best!

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Ah yes, blue sky, warm temperatures, what a great autumn so far ~ and Taipei’s looking great!

Cambodia: The Killing Fields & Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

First a word of warning, this is not for the faint-hearted or those likely to have nightmares for days after.   If that is you, don’t read any further.  But if you can, do.  This is an important part of Cambodia’s tragic history, the legacy of which continues to affect the whole country, the region, even the world.  We need to know.  To learn.  To try to understand.  And to reflect and pray.

The Cambodian genocide took place in my lifetime, when I was a teenager.  Most of the young men who joined Pol Pot and became part of the Khmer Rouge were teenagers then, just as I was.  The most brutal of the torture, violence, interrogation and killings were carried out by these young men, and many are still alive, with children and grandchildren of their own.  Some of them, and some of their commanders are, even now, part of the current Cambodia government, including the prime minister, Hun Sen.  Their victims were their own people, even members of their own villages, their own relatives.  Every person in the country was affected, the vast majority lost family members, some lost their entire families.

Those who survived the atrocities want justice.  Some want revenge.  Many need healing of the nightmare they went through.  Some would rather let sleeping dogs lie, and not have to relive the past all over again.  The Khmer Rouge Tribunal, tasked with putting the most senior responsible members of the Khmer Rouge on trial, is broadly supported by the general public, but not always by the government.  Many of those on trial are now old and in poor health.  Others, including Pol Pot himself, died before they could even be brought to trial.

It is a task unfinished, a tragedy unredeemed, a trauma unresolved, and now affecting the next generation, today’s young people.  Many of the social problems today in Cambodia can be traced back to the Cambodia genocide years.

Visiting Cambodia is unlike any country I have ever been to before.  Lonely Planet describes it thus: “Ascend to the realm of the gods, Angkor Wat. Descend into hell at Tuol Sleng Prison. With a history both inspiring and depressing, Cambodia delivers an intoxicating present.”  That seems more or less about right, at least from my point of view as a first-time, one-week-only, visitor.

I was in Cambodia from October 4-11, primarily to attend a CMS (Church Mission Society) Conference in Phnom Penh.  That finished last Sunday, October 8, and as Taiwan was having a 4-day weekend to celebrate the 106th anniversary of the Republic of China, so I had 2 more days to see something of Cambodia. Of course it wasn’t long enough.  But I managed to spend a day at Angkor Wat last Monday, and then still had Tuesday free in Phnom Penh to learn a little about the terrible Cambodia genocide.

“The Cambodian genocide was carried out by the Khmer Rouge (KR) regime led by Pol Pot between 1975 and 1979 in which an estimated 1.5 to 3 million people died. The Cambodian Civil War resulted in the establishment of Democratic Kampuchea by the Khmer Rouge, who had planned to create a form of agrarian socialism founded on the ideals of Stalinism and Maoism. The subsequent policies led to forced relocation of the population from urban centers, and to torture, mass executions, use of forced labor, malnutrition, and disease which led to the deaths of an estimated 25 percent of the total population (around 2 million people). The genocide ended in 1979 following the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia. As of 2009, 23,745 mass graves have been discovered.”

Thus it was that I arrived in Phonm Penh on Tuesday morning on the overnight bus from Siem Reap, which deposited us on the riverside just in time to see the sunrise over the River Mekong that morning.  Next task – to find a tuk-tuk driver to take me out to the location of the Killing Fields at Choeung Ek – 17 km (11 miles) south of Phnom Penh.  It was the rush hour, even though we were supposedly going in the opposite direction from the traffic – out into the countryside….

Choeung Ek is the site of a former orchard and graveyard for the Chinese community, as well as a mass grave for victims of the Khmer Rouge. “It is the best-known of the sites known as The Killing Fields, where the Khmer Rouge regime executed over one million people between 1975 and 1979”.

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Today, Choeung Ek is a memorial, marked by a Buddhist stupa. Cambodia is a predominantly Buddhist country.  The stupa has acrylic glass sides and is filled with more than 5,000 human skulls.

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I arrived at Choeung Ek first thing in the morning, while it was still quite cool and there were hardly any other visitors.  There is an audio guide so visitors can walk around at their own pace and listen.  It was really quite a reflective experience.

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The horror of what I was listening to on the audio, and the awful sights that I was looking at in front of me, with notices of the mass graves and how many were buried there, was in such stark contrast to the beauty of the natural environment around me.  The sun was shining, there was blue sky, green grass, trees and flowers everywhere, the dark pink water lilies on the lake were looking stunning, birds were singing, roosters were running everywhere. And the workers were cutting the grass.  Their small children were playing nearby, one of them joined me in looking at one of the mass graves.  And yet, this was THE most famous of THE Killing Fields.  Over one million people are thought to have been killed here. In the most brutal ways possible.

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One of the audio stories is an account of one man’s experience at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, and how, having watched his family members being killed, he fled, and after years in the USA, he came back to Cambodia.  He came back initially seeking revenge, but ultimately realized that revenge is not what his mother would have wanted for him.  She would have wanted him only to be happy and to find peace.  So instead of revenge, he sought healing, in tribute to his mother and those in his family who had perished.

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The whole area is a fitting memorial to those who perished in that place.  Beautifully preserved, and yet presented in such a way that none of the tragedy and suffering is glossed over.   Dignified and horrible in equal measure.

After an hour or so at Choeung Ek, it was time to move on, back into Phnom Penh City, and visit the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.  General advice is not to visit these 2 places in the same day.  And not to go alone.  I took the risk, and discovered that visiting both in the same day and alone was OK if I took photos of what I was seeing. Looking at everything through a camera lens kind of put things slightly at a distance and made the overall experience more bearable.  And visiting The Killing Fields first, although chronologically in the wrong order, was somewhat of a preparation for the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.  And so back into town we went…

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is on the site of a former high school “which was used as the notorious Security Prison 21 (S-21) by the Khmer Rouge regime from its rise to power in 1975 to its fall in 1979.

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Tuol Sleng means “Hill of the Poisonous Trees” or “Strychnine Hill”.  It was just one of at least 150 execution centers established by the Khmer Rouge.  From 1975 to 1979, an estimated 17,000 people were imprisoned at Tuol Sleng (some estimates suggest a number as high as 20,000, although the real number is unknown). At any one time, the prison held between 1,000–1,500 prisoners. They were repeatedly tortured and coerced into naming family members and close associates, who were in turn arrested, tortured and killed. In the early months of S-21’s existence, most of the victims were from the previous Lon Nol regime and included soldiers, government officials, as well as academics, doctors, teachers, students, factory workers, monks, engineers, etc. Later, the party leadership’s paranoia turned on its own ranks and purges throughout the country saw thousands of party activists and their families brought to Tuol Sleng and murdered.”

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“The buildings at Tuol Sleng are preserved as they were left when the Khmer Rouge were driven out in 1979.

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The regime kept extensive records, including thousands of photographs. Several rooms of the museum are now lined, floor to ceiling, with black and white photographs of some of the estimated 17,000 prisoners who passed through the prison.

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The site has four main buildings, known as Building A, B, C, and D.

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Building A holds the large cells in which the bodies of the last victims were discovered.

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Building B holds galleries of photographs. Building C holds the rooms sub-divided into small cells for prisoners.

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Building D holds other memorabilia including instruments of torture.  Other rooms contain only a rusting iron bed-frame, beneath a black and white photograph showing the room as it was found by the Vietnamese.

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In each photograph, the mutilated body of a prisoner is chained to the bed, killed by his fleeing captors only hours before the prison was captured. Other rooms preserve leg-irons and instruments of torture.”

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There is a lot to see at Tuol Sleng, and an audio guide that is hard to listen to, because it is all so terrible.  The Killing Fields are terrible enough, but Tuol Sleng is even worse.

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Tuol Sleng is the place where the torture and beatings and interrogations went on, day after day after day.  Despite the sunshine and blue sky, it is a truly awful place.

It’s the place from where the trucks left every evening taking people to The Killing Fields at Choeung Ek, from where they were never to be seen again.  There is nothing beautiful about this place at Tuol Sleng.  Except perhaps the frangipani trees flowering in the yard.  There’s also a central memorial, with the names of those who passed through Tuol Sleng engraved on large stone slabs.

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Out of an estimated 17,000 people imprisoned at Tuol Sleng, there were only seven known survivors.  Two of them, Chum Mey and Bou Meng are on hand each day at the museum, selling copies of their biographies and talking to visitors, sharing about their experiences.  They even take photos with the visitors.  Here we are, Chum Mey on the left, and Bou Meng on the right.

I bought both their books, and have since read them.  These are survivors’ accounts of their lives before, during and after the genocide.  Both say that they were kept alive because they had skills that their captors judged to be useful. Bou Meng, whose wife was killed in the prison, is an artist.  He lost his children in the genocide too.  Chum Mey was kept alive because of his skills in repairing machinery.  He also lost his wife and children in the genocide. Their stories, their courage and their resilience are amazing.

Chum Mey writes in his book, “When I walk among those photographs of the people at Tuol Sleng, I see portraits of people who wanted to live.  They all wanted to live.  Why were they killed?  According to Buddhist teachings, those killers will reap their karma. It hurts me to walk among those photos, but I do it in order to tell my story…. I do not condemn the people who tortured me.  If they were still alive today and if they came to me, would I still be angry with them?  No.  Because they were not senior leaders and they were doing what they had to do at the time.  I consider them victims like me, because they had to follow other people’s orders.  How can I say I would have behaved differently?  Would I have had the strength to refuse to kill, if the penalty was my own death?  During the interrogation I was angry, but after a long while, learning about that place, understanding that people had to do what they were told to do, I wasn’t angry with them anymore.  Even the ones who tortured me, they also lost parents and family members.  There’s a saying in Khmer language: ‘If a mad dog bites you, don’t bite back’.  If you do, it means you are mad, too.”

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The Khmer Rouge also tried to destroy the culture, the traditions, the history, the way of life of Cambodia.  As we drove round Phnom Penh over the past week, it was hard not to notice that there were no crosses anywhere, no churches of any kind in any place.  In a city with a French colonial history, I’d expected at least to see a massive Roman Catholic cathedral. But there wasn’t anything.  It turns out that the Phnom Penh RC Cathedral was the first building to be destroyed when the Khmer Rouge entered Phnom Penh on April 17, 1975.  The Khmer Rouge were against anything capitalistic, religious or evoking the colonial past, and to them, the cathedral epitomized all three. “The new regime was so steadfast in attempting to eliminate all forms of religion that it tore the cathedral down stone by stone”.  The town hall now stands on the site, and the only things that survive are 3 (well, 2½) of the cathedral bells that are now lying on the steps at the main entrance of the National Museum.  I went to see them.  You don’t even need to buy a ticket, they are there on the steps, but with no notice telling you what they might be.

Their engravings are special….

Virtually all the church buildings were destroyed by the Khmer Rouge.  But all is not lost.  There ARE churches.  Plenty of them.  Just not much in evidence.  Our Cambodian friends said that they worship in homes and apartments, and display their crosses inside the churches rather than outside.  The Roman Catholics do not have many actual church buildings, but they run a lot of schools and colleges, and worship in the school buildings.  And the Anglican Church, part of the Diocese of Singapore, is building a big new church.

There are many stories of how the Christian faith went underground during the Khmer Rouge years.  There are also reports of Khmer Rouge commanders becoming Christians, the most famous of which is Kaing Kek Iew, better known as Comrade Duch, chief of Tuol Sleng Prison.  But I suspect such reports are of no comfort to those he tortured and whose families he slaughtered.  In fact such news may well make it even worse for them to endure.  Or maybe it is just us who ask the question: how come the Khmer Rouge have a chance to receive God’s mercy and forgiveness in this lifetime, when those they murdered didn’t?

Going round The Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng brings out the same emotions and questions as I had recently when watching the movie, ‘Silence’ (about the persecution of Christians in 17th century Japan) – it is truly harrowing, compelling, gruesome, powerful, emotional – and the overriding question, which is of course in the movie’s title, about the silence of God.  When human beings go through such utter anguish and indescribable pain and suffering, why is God so silent?

God is of course there suffering with us in each and every terrible situation.  For the victims, we can only trust that God is merciful.  For the perpetrators, we can only believe that God is just.  Ultimately justice and mercy must belong to God, and in His time.

While at the CMS conference, I shared with everyone there a little about Taiwan’s own history and some of Taiwan’s own tragedies, notably the White Terror, and the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis in 1958, when Mainland China fired an estimated 450,000 artillery shells at the island of Kinmen, an island close to the Chinese mainland, but governed by Taiwan.  Many of those artillery shells are now used to make steel knives for cooking.  On a visit to Kinmen last year, our bishop, Bishop David J. H. Lai had a vision to take the waste metal fragments of artillery shells and transform them into Artillery Shell Crosses.  Now we are ready to start production of the crosses, as below….

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The crosses have black lines running up and down, and across ~ these signify the rifling inside the gun barrels, through which the artillery shells were fired.  The oblique angles at the ends of the crossbar represent human arms uplifted in prayer toward God, and the ‘P’ in the centre stands for ‘Peace’. Objects of evil, hatred, death and destruction are being transformed into a symbol of love, peace, hope and redemption.

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In Cambodia, I visited a shop run by an NGO, Rajana Association, who have a slightly-different-but-similar vision, transforming bombshells from the Cambodian genocide into beautiful jewelry for sale.

I bought some of their ‘bombshell jewelry’: a butterfly necklace (below left photo), which for me is a symbol of transformation.  I ordered a cross for Bishop Lai (below right photo).  I like the words they have printed below the cross, ‘At Rajana, bombshells are transformed into something new and beautiful. The transformation of an object of violence into a piece of art.’

Back in February, we welcomed Presiding Bishop Michael Curry from the Episcopal Church in New York to visit Taiwan (see my blog post here), and on February 26, the Sunday of the Transfiguration, he preached in St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei. He is always a very dynamic, powerful and challenging preacher.  I quote from his sermon that day, because his words came to me in the past few days as I have reflected on my visit to The Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng Museum….

“God came among us in the person of Jesus of Nazareth to show us the way to change the world ~ to show us the way to transform and transfigure this world, from the nightmare we often make of it, into the dream that God has intended for it ~ from the mess humans make of it, into the miracle that God will make of it. He came to change the world – and he came to show us how to do it….”

“Go out and change the world, change Taipei, change Taiwan, change this world, change this church ~ help God change this world from the nightmare it is into the dream that God intends!  May God bless you, may God keep you and may God send you on his way to change this world!”

Amen. Amen. May it be so.  And God forbid that the tragedy that is the Cambodia genocide should ever be repeated.  In Cambodia.  In Asia.  Or anywhere in the world.

Pray for the people of Cambodia and the healing of their nation.

(Some of the above reflections are the result of sharing with my CMS colleagues about our experiences of visiting the Tuol Sleng Museum.  I have incorporated them into what I have written above).

This is Part 3 of 3 posts about my visit to Cambodia, and needs to be read as part of the whole.  For Part 1 see here, and Part 2 see here.