Killing Field Christian: a book review

Intended For Evil tells the story of Radha Manickam, an ethnically Indian, Cambodian Christian who survived the Khmer Rouge genocide (1975-1979)  and aftermath before emigrating to the US. Journalist and journalism professor, Les Sillars relays Radha’s story and provides historical and political context.

intendedforevil-sc.inddIn 1973, Nixon ordered carpet bombs on Cambodia, turning the small South Asian nation into the most bombed country in the world (bombed 2.7 million times. A civil war with the Khmer Rouge had been going on since 1970. The US bombings led to greater destabilization of the country. The Khmer Rouge took the reigns of government in 1975 and their paranoid, four-year Cultural Revolution re-mix of the Holocaust resulted in the deaths of 1.5 to 3 million people.

Also in 1973 Radha trusted Jesus savior and Lord through a conversation with a pastor Nou Thay at an English class at Maratha Church, a Phnom Penh church planted by American missionaries. Radha’s faith grew, and he participated in evangelistic efforts  and worshipped at the church, though his faith was not always reflected in his life.

When the Khmer Rouge came to power, they were governed by  both Communist ideology and Cambodian nationalism. Pol Pot was opposed to Western ideology, ideas and aid (except for what his government accepted from Russia). Westerners and those educated by the west were executed or re-educated. The Khmer also expected Cambodians to have a total commitment to the state, which they  vigorously enforced. The hope was to reshape Cambodians into a new Socialist people. Cambodians lived in fear because as the government became more and more paranoid about subversive elements, more and more people were killed.

Radha kept his faith and his relationship with Western missionaries quiet. More than once he tried to commit suicide but he felt God had a plan for his life. He didn’t invite martyrdom by living his faith openly. Outwardly he complied to whatever demands the Khmer put on him, making certain he never fell behind in his labor (and so give soldiers a chance to punish him). Several times his life was in peril. The Khmer control was total and they even arranged marriages for the Cambodian people. It is only after his marriage to Samen he discovered she was a third-generation Cambodian Christian.

Pol Pot’s government fell to Veitnam in 1979. He and the Khmer Rouge escaped to the jungles of Thailand. The terror was alleviated though danger and bad conditions persisted. Vietnam set up a client government which continued to engage in warfare with the Khmer Rouge through the next decade. Radha and Samen  emigrated to the US. They made their first trip back to Cambodia in 1989 after the fall of Communism in the Eastern Bloc (the dissolution of Soviet support, made Cambodia more stable and open). Today he and his wife work to bring the gospel to Cambodians in Cambodia and North America.

Radha has an amazing story and  Les Sillars tells it in an engaging way. I give this book four stars and recommend it for anyone who likes a good biography.

Note: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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