The Faith of the Cambodian Martyrs

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In the late 1970s, Khmer Rouge dictator Pol Pot oversaw the deaths of about 2 million people in Cambodia. Not surprisingly, Pol Pot's red hordes were especially merciless in their persecution of Christians.

Now, thirty years after the fact, the UN-sponsored Khmer Rouge tribunal is set to begin. The surviving victims of that unspeakably evil communist regime have waited nearly a generation for justice.

Unfortunately, that justice may never come. "Real justice," says Brad Adams, Asia director for Human Rights Watch, "means . . . making decisions . . . based on evidence, not politics." And sadly, according to the Wall Street Journal, politics and allegations of corruption and misuse of funds have already compromised the tribunal's integrity in the eyes of many.

Nonetheless, while the scandals surrounding the tribunal garner headlines, a much more amazing story is emerging—and it involves the murderous persecutors of Christianity.

One of the major Cambodian officials cited for crimes against humanity is named Duch. He directed the "notorious S21 prison, where some 14,000 people are thought to have been tortured before being sent to their deaths in the killing fields outside Phnom Penh." Unlike other former Cambodian leaders, Duch has actually admitted his part in the killings of nearly one-quarter of Cambodia's population. He has spent the last eight years in a military prison.

"I have done very bad things in my life," Duch told Religion Today back in 1999. "Now it is time to bear the consequences for my actions." You see, before Duch surrendered to authorities, he surrendered to Christ. And he was not alone.

Ninety percent of Cambodia's Christians may have been slaughtered during the reign of Pol Pot, but as human rights advocate Kristin Wright reported, more than 2,000 Khmer Rouge who once followed Pol Pot now follow Christ! Many of them converted after encountering the faith of those they murdered.

"It is a testimony," says Wright, "to the courageous lives of Christians like [one Cambodian named] Haim, who used their final words to witness to Khmer Rouge soldiers before being dumped in a mass grave." And now, years after nearly being exterminated, Christianity is growing in Cambodia, despite the new government's clamp-down on non-Buddhist religious activities.

It is a modern-day realization of what ancient Church father Tertullian proclaimed: The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.

And around the world today, the blood of Christian martyrs is flowing as never before. We have talked on "BreakPoint" many times about the savage persecution of Christians in many Muslim countries, in China, and in ancient Christian homelands in Iraq. That is why I am asking you and your church to participate in the 10th annual Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church this November 11. You can visit to get materials your church can use in observing this day of prayer.

And as you pray for the persecuted Church, pray for the persecutors as well, that they, like the Apostle Paul and the former Khmer Rouge militants, will embrace the One whose followers they persecuted.

From BreakPoint®, October 25, 2007, Copyright 2007, Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with the permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or distributed without the express written permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. "BreakPoint®" and "Prison Fellowship Ministries®" are registered trademarks of Prison Fellowship