He said it. I didn’t. But if I or any of my loved ones ever suffered criminal aggression, imprisonment, torture, kidnapping, amputation, rape, or even the theft or willful destruction of property, I would no doubt be a victim vowing vengeance.
The Pol Pot massacre of three million people and the transformation of Cambodia into a prison camp has led a few rare survivors, as well as families of the victims of the genocide, to seek belated justice and punishment of the Khmer Rouge criminals, now old men – and women – who perpetrated such unspeakable crimes, over thirty years ago. One was brought to trial in 2010, 68-year old “Duch”, charged with the torture and murder of over 12,000 of his own people, but also of some foreigners including a young New Zealander, Kerry Hamill, whose sloop drifted into Cambodian waters in 1978. His brother Rob, a world-renowned Olympic athlete who broke the record for rowing across the Atlantic, had a documentary, “Brother Number One”, made of his quest for bringing to justice the infamous Duch, who admitted killing his brother, accused of spying for the C.I.A., after several months of unrelenting torture. The film included, in the court-room, Rob’s personal testimony and that of the Cambodian teacher become torturer and executioner, who pleaded, like Eichmann before him, guilty of similar atrocities in another pogrom, that he was only following orders. One of Duch’s superiors, interviewed on film, denied that the killing fields resulted in the death of three million people. “Terribly exaggerated”, he said; “there were less than one million …” !
Was Rob Hamill seeking vengeance on behalf of his eldest brother ? Many at the trial and beyond it were. Rob wanted to hear Duch say at least that he was sorry. A sentence for life or a minimum of forty years was expected. Duch got thirty-five years, quickly and incredibly reduced to nineteen. Even the noble souls ready if not to forgive, at least to accept less than capital punishment for the crimes their loved ones had endured, were visibly disappointed, “shattered” would be closer to the truth – and not surprisingly immediately appealed against the too-lenient sentence.
The God of the Old Testament was given to vengeance – with a vengeance ! The recent film “Noah” reminds us of the myth of the Deluge, where Yahweh, different from His Son Jesus, was in no way inclined to forgiveness but to the indiscriminate punishment and annihilation of the guilty along with the innocent; the terror and death He inflicted on the latter He must have considered collateral flood-damage. Jesus, on the other hand, expected His followers to forgive their enemies. On the cross He set the example by asking His Dad to forgive His executioners “for they know not what they do”.
There is nothing new to say about all this. Even Jesus admitted both the vengeance to be exacted by His Father and the fact that His “sacrifice” was somehow necessary to pay off a “debt” for the sins of mankind. Don’t ask me to try to make sense of this. I don’t really enjoy the discomfort of non-atheists and their spokesmen trying to reconcile this scandalous nonsense with their doctrine of “God is Love”. In attacking and ridiculing religion I am not seeking vengeance against an institution that robbed me of my adolescence and brainwashed me into the meaningless ministry of the priesthood. Churchmen at the time, I would like to hope, knew not what they were doing. The problem is that the Churches are still doing the same thing. Without vengeance or hatred directed at the successors of those who made me waste half of my life, I will continue to try to save others from the blindness that is theirs which they continue to propagate. I leave vengeance to the Lord.