Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Religion and the Ex-Khmer Rouge

In what's probably the most interesting thing I'll read all day, Stephen Kurczy has a piece on how old Khmer Rouge leaders are turning to religion in their later years. Many have turned to Buddhism, hoping to blend into the population but knowing that they will have to pay for their karmic destruction in future lives. Others though have sought redemption through evangelical Christianity, making up disproportional numbers of that growing movement in Cambodia.

One has to wonder if these are cynical moves on behalf of the Khmer Rouge, trying to tap into the international Christian network to deflect possible prosecution and prison sentences. Of course they may be genuinely terrified of their future given the heinous crimes they perpetrated in the 1970s. Knowing that all is forgiven once you give your life to Christ, they cling desperately to the hope that they can go to heaven.

This is one real problem with evangelicalism. If you can simply accept Jesus into your life and everything you have done before that is forgiven, is there no room for justice? I certainly wouldn't want to be part of any religion where leading members of the Khmer Rouge do not pay for their crimes. Of course, I'm part of no religion, so maybe I am the problem. But this seems both cynical and unjust.

What would be more interesting is if Kurczy explored how the Cambodian public viewed ex-Khmer Rouge leaders turning to evangelical Christianity. But even without that key question, Kurczy explores some very interesting intersections between religion and politics in an improving but still shaky nation.