On March 4, 2003 my father was martyred by terrorists in Davao City, Philippines. Though the bomb was placed directly behind my father was not the only one to die; more than twenty other Filipinos were killed and more than 150 wounded. On that day, Islam got hundreds of more foes.
Now consider Iraq and Afghanistan. Billions of dollars are spent each year in weapons and reconstruction. The same uniform that kills insurgents and randomly searches and detains civilians tries to win “hearts and minds” by building roads, hospitals and schools. It is a futile cause. The only hope the military “solution” could have is isolating the capacity of extremists from attacking other countries, but there will never be peace.
Why do I know that? Because I know what happens in a person’s heart when they are a victim of terrorism. Nine years ago my father was killed by an Islamic terrorist’s bomb in Davao City, Philippines. The terrorists who killed him have been involved in tit for tat bombings and killings for hundreds of years. Though they have never apprehended the “bomber”, I would not be surprised to learn that his family was a victim of a “Christian” Philippine Army attack.
In our minds being the victim of an atrocity somehow makes the revenge on others to be acceptable. Many countries will not even bother investigating murders which apparently involve family “revenge”. You killed my uncle, so when my family kills your cousin, you will know why. It is a cycle of violence that it unending.
Is it possible to break the cycle of violence?
In Cambodia, they thought they could. A few years ago I met a man named Khieu Samphan. He was a former Speaker of Parliament and Head of State in Cambodia. However, he fell from power being accused publicly of being opposed to King Sihanouk. As a punishment the King had him stripped naked in public and removed him from his position. Then he disappeared. Most thought he was dead. He wasn’t. He went into the jungle. He wrote Ph.D. dissertation on the problems of Cambodia and his thesis was that the problem was the rich city people who were in political and economic power. His solution: Kill them all.
But what about the cycle of revenge their deaths? He had a solution for that as well. He had a saying: “To kill the weed, you must kill the roots.” The interpretation was that if you kill a father, you better kill his whole family, especially his sons, because when they are older they will come and hunt you down and kill you and your family out of revenge. Khieu Samphan became the Head of State of the Khmer Rouge. Annually from 1975 until the 1990’s, he addressed the world at the United Nations in the General Assembly giving his excuses for the ravaging of an entire nation. 3.1 million Khmers (Cambodians; his own people) were killed. Nearly all of King Sihanouk’s family was killed. Nearly everyone who witnessed his public shaming was killed. The entire city of Phnom Penh (a city of more than 3 million people in its heyday), where the shaming happened, was destroyed. Why did the Khmer Rouge kill nearly 40% of the population of Cambodia? I think it was revenge.
On that day when Khieu Samphan was shamed publicly a baby girl was playing in her house in Phnom Penh. She was the middle daughter of a family of 9. By April 17, 1975 Khieu Samphan’s armies had surrounded Phnom Penh and the government collapsed. Immediately, the entire population of Phnom Penh was removed to be exterminated. After 3 years, 8 months, and 20 days as many as 3.1 million people were dead; the entire nation decimated. A little girl tried to pick up the pieces of her life. Her grandparents were dead, her mother and father were dead, six siblings were dead, her cousins were dead, her nephews and nieces were dead. Only one sibling survived. That little girl is my wife, Noit. A small root had survived to get revenge. Both siblings joined the police force. Their number one enemy was the Khmer Rouge: the ones who killed their family.
Twenty-five years later my wife and I were in Khieu Samphan’s home. There were no body guards and no security around. I became consumed with the idea of killing this old man who sat in front of me bragging about his “revolution for the people”. It would have been easy. I know that no judge would ever convict me for his murder, in fact, they may just give me a medal. The cycle of revenge would continue.
But God spoke to me. It was a simple command: LOVE.
For the last twenty years Noit and I have worked as hard and as broadly across the nation of Cambodia as we can. We have helped people, trained leaders and educated children and adults in every province of Cambodia. We have built schools, fixed roads and even built bridges. We have helped thousands of children and thousands of adults. Our calling is simple: love.
On March 4, 2003 our family faced another violent attack: the martyrdom of my father Bill Hyde in the Philippines. He was an Iowa farm-boy, musician and teacher who was caught in the cycle of revenge in Mindanao. I am his son. As his son, I have the right to avenge his death. Hypothetically, I could plant a bomb in a crowded Muslim market in the Philippines and exact massive carnage and no one would blame me. However, the result of that action would be the further expansion of the cycle of revenge.
There is only one way to stop the cycle of revenge: LOVE. To love, you must forgive. To love, you must be willing to sacrifice. To love, you must be willing to be a victim again. To love, you must confront those who caused you harm and love them. It is the hardest thing in the world. But, it is the only hope for the future.
Military force never wins wars. Revenge never brings peace. Only love can.
Why do I travel to every province in Cambodia with my wife? Why do I help educate, feed and care for children, why do I train pastors and plant churches across the country? I do so to try to bring healing salve to the “roots” which have survived horrible terror. In loving these “roots” we hope to nurture them into beautiful flowers which love others.
Why do I travel all over Mindanao when it is unsafe and danger lurks in the darkness? Why would I help a people who would target me just because of my white skin? Love. It is the only hope.