As Donald Trump’s presidency continues, I hear more and more things from the left about how Trump and the Republicans are a danger to democracy. I hear how Mr. Trump or a Republican Congress will take away our rights and our freedoms. I believe it is wise to diligently guard those rights and freedoms enshrined in the Constitution. At the same time, there is a sense that the people complaining about our rights and freedoms, from both the left and the right, should get some much needed perspective.
I say this, having just read Intended for Evil: A Survivor’s Story of Love, Faith and Courage in the Cambodian Killing Fields. The book, written by a college acquaintance of mine, Les Sillars, gives our current discussion that perspective. While we carefully guard our rights and freedoms, Sillars tells the powerful story of Radha and the Cambodian people whose rights and freedoms were taken away completely by the Khmer Rouge Communists. What may or may not be happening in our country is nothing compared to the horror visited on this Asian nation.
Sillars’ story is based on extensive interviews and, it appears, a friendship with, Radha Manickam, an Indian citizen living in Cambodia at the time of the Khmer Rouge takeover in the 1970’s. From a wealthy Hindu family, Radha became a Christian as a young man. Soon after his conversion, the country was taken over by the Communists.
Interweaving Radha’s personal story with a birds-eye view of what was going on in Cambodia on a national and international level, Sillars tells a story of lost rights, powerlessness and random murder. The Khmer Rouge evacuated the Cambodian people from their cities, forcibly settled them in the country to grow rice, and starved and worked them to death. Radha’s story is depressing at times and hard to stomach. The reader wonders how one man, and ultimately how a whole country, could endure that much brutality.
And yet, God’s hand shines through over and over in the story. God is a work protecting Radha, providing food for him, overseeing the circumstances of his marriage and ultimately helping him escape to the United States. While Radha’s story is one of profound loss at times – most of his immediate family died in the killing fields of Cambodia - it is also one of hope, since God never lets go of one of his own.
Sillars tell the story of both the rise and the fall of the Khmer Rouge. Interestingly enough, a recent issue of Christianity Today chronicles the amazing opportunity for ministry that exists in Cambodia at the present time. Christians are at work in many areas, from standing against the sex trade to planting churches among Cambodian national. As Intended for Evil makes clear, God is able to take situations and circumstances that are brutal and redeem them for His glorious purposes.
So, by all means, stand up for the rights and freedoms we enjoy in our country. Thank God for them on a regular basis. Make yourself aware of the places where those rights are being eroded. At the same time, always remember we may not have those freedoms forever. But if they go away, it does not mean God is no longer at work. In fact, it may be that God has even more opportunities to work, redeeming painful situations and bringing hope in places where, humanly speaking, it should not exist.