Kim Phuc – the power of love

On 8 June 1972 a 9-year-old little girl, Phan Thi Kim Phuc, ran from her village Trang Bang, north of Saigon, after a napalm attack. Kim and her family were sheltering in a temple when they heard planes overhead. They ran outside to find safety, just as bombs detonated containing napalm, a flammable liquid that clings to skin, causing horrific burns. Kim remembers the intense heat and excruciating pain. She pulled burning clothes from her body. Then she ran and, as she ran, Nick Ut, a 21-year-old photographer, took a photograph that became a symbol of the horrors of that war.

Kim spent more than a year in hospital. Her family were afraid she wouldn’t survive. After many skin grafts, and other operations, she recovered from her physical injuries. Yet she could not find peace. She wanted to disappear, and even to die. She thought if she died, she wouldn’t have to suffer mentally, physically, and emotionally. She began seeking answers and, when she was 19 years old, she trusted Jesus Christ as her Saviour and found new life and peace. She says, “When I became Christian, I had a wonderful connection – the relationship between me, and Jesus, and God.” Kim asked God for help to move on and says, “From that point on I learned to forgive.”

Today Kim radiates an unmistakeable poise and peace when she tells her story. She is now 59 years old and lives in Toronto. She is a wife and mother of 2 boys and a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations. She has established a charity that helps children suffering from war. She says that the terrified little girl in the picture is “not running any more, she’s flying!” Kim adds, “I’m not religious; but the relationship between me and God and Jesus, changed my life.” Knowing Jesus brought Kim physical and emotional peace “in the midst of hatred, bitterness, pain, loss, hopelessness”, when the pain seemed insurmountable.

She sees that famous picture as just one of many blessings. She says, “I really want to thank God that he spared my life when I was a little girl. Whatever happened to me, I have another opportunity to be alive, to be healthy, to be a blessing and to help honour other people. I still have the pain, I still have the scars, and I still have the memories, but my heart is healed. Today, I don’t cry for myself, now I cry for other children.” Kim’s message to the world is simple but profound, “If that little girl could learn to forgive, everyone else can do it to. If everyone can learn to live with love, hope, and forgiveness, there would be no need for war. Love is more powerful than any weapon.”

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