Earlier this week Alma Jean and I attended the opening session of the Baptist Peacemakers Conference at EMU to hear keynote speaker Vietnamese-Canadian Kim Phúc tell the story of her journey to forgiveness.
Kim is the nine-year-old girl who was shown naked and badly burned in the Pulitzer-Prize prize winning photograph of her and other children fleeing a napalm attack in her village of Trang Bang, South Vietnam on June 8, 1972. A South Vietnamese pilot mistook the group for enemy soldiers and diverted to attack, killing two of Phúc's cousins and two other villagers and inflicting severe burns on many others.
Associated Press’s Nick Út’s photograph became one of the most haunting images of the Vietnam War and is thought to have further turned the tide of public opinion against it. Kim recalls that she was yelling, "Nóng quá, nóng quá" ("too hot, too hot") in the picture.
Her story, which included her conversion to Christianity and her growing conviction that she must let go of her bitterness over the physical and psychological scars inflicted on her, was profoundly moving. She described it as being like “heaven on earth” to be able to love those who had inflicted all the suffering and the many surgeries she had to go through.
“And my scars? They are my protection against being proud,” she said.