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Book Review: ‘Killing Fields, Living Fields’ by Don Cormack

March 4, 2011

Christian biography on cambodia khmer rougeThis book follows the Evangelical Church of Cambodia from its inception in the 1920s through to the books first publication date in the 1990s. Specifically the book focuses its attention on the period of the Khmer Rouge rule of the country, when this communist party’s horrific treatment of the population rightly went down in history as the countries darkest moment. Throughout the book the author recounts numerous testimonies on Cambodian Christians as the lens through which to view the history of this country. These personal stories are the real strength of the book as you really feel like you are going through the events with the people and you get to hear of the personal way in which God intervenes in the lives of some many people.

The church begins slowly as Buddhism has a grip over the vast majority of the population which sees the need to ‘merit make’ and to placate the spirits meaning any person refusing to do this is accused of bringing bad karma on the whole village. As a result Christians are treated badly and added to this is the feeling that Christianity is a western religion which it is unpatriotic for Cambodians to follow. (Knowing someone who works in this field, I know this link between nationalism and religion is a force to be reckoned with in many countries in Asia today.) As Cambodia descended into civil war however, with Buddhists killing Buddhists, God brings about a great conversion with thousands flocking to Christ before the fall of the capital to a Chinese backed communist party. From 1975 until 1979, the brutal communists known as the Khmer Rouge ruled the country and turned the nation into a concentration camp. The death toll reached somewhere around 2.2 million people as starvation, disease and executions brought the country to its knees. Throughout this period Christians struggled along with everyone else, and were often sought out for execution because of their supposed link to the West and the personal stories bring their struggles home. With the overthrow of the regime by the Vietnamese, we see the country rescued and the continuing witness of the church as the Christians reached out to help their fellow Cambodians and relief arrived from missionary organisations and the church began to build again.

Throughout my reading of this book, I have been challenged and encouraged as I’ve heard of how Christians have suffered for their faith and how God remained faithful to His people. Reading Christian biographies is often a great way to encourage yourself in the faith and this book is one of the best. Originally published by OMF, recommended by, among others, J.I. Packer and recently been reprinted you have no excuses why you can’t dive into this great read!

Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name. “On the day when I act,” says the LORD Almighty, “they will be my treasured possession.” Malachi 3:16-17

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. March 4, 2011 9:42 pm

    I wasn’t too familiar with that time in history…it sounds like a horrifically dark time marked with great pain, violence and death. It’s amazing how during such a dark period so many souls were touched by the grace of God and came to Christ, despite the turmoil, despite the chaos and feared persecution. What an inspiring story. I’m going to have to check it out!

  2. March 25, 2011 6:36 pm

    Thanks for this review. I actually stumbled upon this book at a thrift (second hand) store a few months ago. But just shoved it on my shelf and have not read it. I am now going to move it into my “to read” stack!

    • March 26, 2012 5:00 pm

      Thanks LLM… I wonder whether you’ve read it and what you what you thought of it a year later?

      • May 10, 2012 5:57 pm

        I’m embarrassed! I have not read it still. Sometimes books gets shoved up and down and around (haha) in my “to read” list for various reasons. I will eventually read it.

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