Monday, November 22, 2010

Caught in a moment (Advent reflections); Part 2 The Girl in the Photo

'Caught in a Moment' (as well as being the name of a U2 song) is a series of advent reflections. I'm using images from the media as a way of exploring how the message of the one who came at Christmas impacts the reality of our world today .

This is perhaps the most famous photo of the last century. It has come to encapsulate the horror of war and the civilian price of our conflicts. June 8 1972 and the United States and South Vietnamese forces drop napalm on the village of Trang Bang. Nick Ut took the photo of six-year-old Kim Phuc running from her burning village her back and arm badly burned.

Kim Phuc’s life is radically changed by this moment. She goes through years of pain and suffering. The communist government use her as a propaganda tool.

In 1996 Kim Phuc, then living in Canada, was invited to speak at the Vietnam War Memorial.

“ Dear friends” she says

… as you know, I am the little girl who was running to escape from the napalm fire. I do not want to talk about the war because I cannot change history. I only want you to remember the tragedy of war in order to do things to stop fighting and killing around the world. I have suffered a lot from both physical and emotional pain. Sometimes I thought I could not live, but God saved me and gave me faith and hope. Even if I could talk face to face with the pilot who dropped the bombs I would tell him we cannot change history but we should try to do good things for the present and for the future to promote peace…’

(Denise Chong: The Girl In The Picture, 1999. pp362)

In the Crowd was John Plummer who was involved in planning the raid on Trang Bang. They meet that day. He explained who he was and he cried, “I’m sorry…I’m so sorry…” Kim Phuc embraced him and said, “I forgive, I forgive”.
She now works for UNESCO as an ambassador for forgiveness, peace and reconciliation. Her life gives us hope of the change that the Christmas message can bring even in the face of our worst inhumanity. This is the other famous Photo of Kim Phuc taken by the same photographer. It is almost Madonna and child like and speak volumes as to the healing of Kim's life.

“It was fire that burned my body, it was the skill of doctors that mended my skin but it took the power of God to heal my heart.” –Kim Phuc

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