Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | October 7, 2010

The Residue of Death

Dubai, UAE en route to Bangkok, Thailand

I love the sound and the meaning of the word life. The Bible teaches that God is the Author of life and that all life is sacred. The implications of the sanctity of human life are that we are to respect, protect, and preserve life. Jesus came that we might have and experience meaningful life. He never took a life and never ordered His followers to destroy life. Instead, He gave His own life on the cross to pay the penalty for sinners under the sentence of death. By giving His life on the cross He affirmed the value and worth of our lives. Satan, on the other hand, is committed to the destruction of life. Jesus said that Satan comes like a thief in the night to steal and to kill and to destroy. Everywhere that Satan works to destroy life, he leaves behind the residue of death.

In 2009, I visited the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh — known as Security Office 21 during Pol Pot’s regime. Originally built as a school, Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge took over the campus in 1975 and turned it into a place of torture and death. Classrooms were subdivided into prison cells and torture equipment replaced playground equipment. Today, the photographs of those who were imprisoned and tortured at S-21 are on display there, including photographs of many who died at the hands of their torturers. These photographs are the Khmer Rouge’s bloody fingerprints at the scene of one of the most heinous crimes in recent history. They are the residue of death.

I also visited the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center — the extermination camp for Security Office 21. Thousands of people who were tortured at S-21 were transported to this location where they were blind-folded and forced to kneel in front of one of 129 mass graves. These individuals were then bludgeoned and thrown into the pit where Pol Pot’s soldiers would cut their throats to ensure that they were dead. Today, the most prominent building at the site is the Memorial Stupa which was erected in 1988. More than 8,000 human skulls — the residue of death — are arranged behind the glass panels of the building. These skulls bear the visible marks of blunt-force trauma, mute testimony to the brutality of the Khmer Rouge.

The thing that disturbed me the most at the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center was a tree. The sign in front of this particular tree notes what happened beneath its green canopy: “Killing Tree Against Which Executioners Beat Children.” The Khmer Rouge did not waste ammunition on children. Instead, they took babies from their mothers, swung them by their feet, smashed their little bodies against the trunk of the tree, and then tossed their lifeless remains into the adjacent mass grave. The sign that marks that grave states: “Mass Grave of More than 100 Victims | Children and Women Whose Majority Were Naked.” This grave and the 128 other mass graves at this particular killing field contain the residue of death.

S-21 and the Choeung Ek killing field remind us that what we believe about the sanctity of human life matters. Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge did not value human life and more than two-million people died as a result. It is easy for us to condemn the actions of Pol Pot’s soldiers who smashed innocent babies against the killing tree. But, we are not always as quick to condemn the actions of those who dismember and destroy millions of babies in the womb every year. If we believe that life matters, then we must not ignore, remain silent, or try to justify this global atrocity. Being passive about the sanctity of life is not an option when we are standing deep in our culture’s miry residue of death.

The recent history of Cambodia illustrates what can happen when we adopt or tolerate world-views that diminish the value of human life. As Christ-followers, we cannot afford to take a neutral stance on the matter of the sanctity of human life. We must uphold the Biblical view that people, including babies in the womb, are made in the image of God and therefore worthy of our respect and protection. The failure to do so can lead to the kind of unimaginable nightmare that haunted Cambodia and polluted the country with the residue of death.

I am currently en route to Bangkok to learn about the work of those who rescue young girls trafficked to work in Bangkok’s brothels by unscrupulous individuals who have no regard for the welfare of others. From there I will travel to Cambodia to join the staff of Life International to encourage hundreds of pastors and church leaders to sow the seeds of life in Cambodia’s former killing fields. And then I will travel on to India to check on the construction of our boys school and where two of Kingsland’s dentists will care for our boys and villagers in need of dental care. Kingsland is working to sweep away the residue of death by affirming the sanctity of human life through initiatives like these.


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