Today saw the pilgrims visit a number of places across Phnom Penh, where we would learn of the eerily recent horrors of the Khmer Rouge during the reign of Pol Pot. It is with great sorrow that I, along with the others reflect upon the learnings of today.
We were first struck by the impact of Tabitha. They have helped hundreds of thousands of Cambodian families to work their way out of poverty through education about saving money, raising crops and animals, building homes, and many more extraordinary pathways. Millions of dollars have been earned have been earned by thousands of families who previously had nothing. It is truly heartwarming to see the success of such organisations who try to play their part in improving their society. As someone who is extremely lucky to have been born into a good life, it is clear that such a privileged position should be used to help those less fortunate. Yet the sheer poverty of this world often makes the desire to help seem like a helpless endeavour. The success of groups like Tabitha’s restores the hope that change can happen.
We then spent the rest of the morning walking through the Killing Fields with an audio headset which taught us of trucks that would bring 300 Cambodians daily to be executed. They were then piled into mass graves and covered while celebratory festival music played out at extreme volumes to drown out the screams- to hide its inner workings to the public. A true horror story. Perhaps the most chilling site was the killing tree which was used to mirder children- often in front of their mothers. It seems so wrong that all of this only happened in the 1970’s. Being all together over the past couple of weeks has given the pilgrims hope that there is still good in the world.
We later visited Tuol Sleng- the S21 prison museum which was just as confronting. 20,000 people died at the prison at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. Thousands of photos now hang in the cells- each face telling its own story as you looked into their eyes. Nothing separates them from us as humans except their place and time of birth. It makes me so uncomfortable in thinking about the comfort we live in at home, knowing that these people had to spend the end of their short lives in a 1x2 metre cell with no food and no bathroom. It makes me realise we have it great at home. We should all realise our luck and use it for good.
Tonight’s dinner was “dining in the dark” which was an awesome end to our big day. This was a very interesting experience- an insight into how our blind waiters manage to work so amazingly without any sight. I felt like I was tripping out the whole time as I scrounged around my plate to see if I’d left anything behind!
Thank you for staying with us and viewing our posts, the comments from everyone have been a daily joy. I’m sure that the stories will continue from each pilgrim upon our return home. While we all will have missed you very much, leaving this beautiful place is very bitter sweet today.
See you all tomorrow!