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JRS Online Retreat: Day 4 – Landmines: A Wound in the Heart of God
Thursday, November 04, 2010

"Hatred never ceases by hatred but by love alone is healed."

As you begin your prayer today, remember that you are in God’s holy presence. Become aware of how God gazes on you all the time, how tenderly and powerfully God regards you. Ask God for what you want in prayer:

Ask God to help you experience the reality of evil in the world, its sinful structures, and your own part in the world’s brokenness. 

Reflections for Prayer

Sr. Denise Coghlan, RSM
Country Director
Jesuit Refugee Service Cambodia

Phnom Penh, 4 November 2010 – On August 12, 2009, I received an urgent phone call from Sok Eng, the first coordinator of our JRS program in Banteay Meanchey, Cambodia: “Sister, I am in Mongkul Borey hospital with Sok Eim who has been seriously injured by a landmine. He has an incredibly sad story. Can you find some little way to give him hope?”

An almost unbelievably sad story indeed! Born in Site 8 refugee camp on the Cambodian-Thai border, Sok Eim’s father had himself been a victim of an explosive remnant of war.  At the age of six Sok Eim was repatriated to a village in Cambodia. He never had the chance to go to school. Instead, he became the breadwinner for his family. In 2009 in search of work he was lured across the border into Thailand and from there was trafficked to Malaysia. He soon found himself in a Malaysian jail and six months later, after an appeal to the Cambodian embassy, he was returned to his village in Siem Reap. His family still did not have enough to eat.

Som Eik decided to try charcoal making and went off to the forest along the Thai border. Suddenly, he heard a huge bang and was flung into the air. One leg was dangling and he was bleeding profusely from wounds to the arms and body. A landmine. Soldiers far off heard the explosion and rushed to get him first aid.  All this happened on August 10, the anniversary of the end of World War II in the Pacific.

One leg is now amputated and Som Eik still experiences pain in the other and in his arms. His family quickly came to his rescue, giving him the blood he so desperately needed. His body has begun to heal but the heart is full of despair. How can he live and move?

He smiles at Sok Eng through his tears as she tells him, “I have a friend in JRS called Tun Channareth. He lost both his legs to a landmine and wanted to kill himself but now he makes wheelchairs, campaigns to ban cluster bombs, and his daughters go to university. He lives in Siem Reap not far from you. He will come to visit you."

As you ponder this story, ask yourself "How has the life of this 24 year old man been affected by the sinful structures of our world that include the detention camps of the Khmer Rouge, lack of schooling in poor Cambodian villages, grinding poverty, arms production, relentless war, human trafficking, and now the debilitating trauma of a landmine? Governments, arms producers, soldiers, businessmen, and traffickers are all involved. And so are we.  Actually it might be our lack of awareness of what life is like for other people, our failure to take action or to bother to love that makes us part of these sinful spirals of evil.

If you were to look over the balcony rail at the Jesuit Metta Karuna [Mercy-Loving Kindness] Reflection Centre in Cambodia, you would see a sculpture that depicts the Gospel story of the washing of the feet.  If you went closer and examined the plaque, you would find an inscription that reads, “I have no foot to wash.”  A man who lost his leg to a landmine is looking up at Jesus!

Contemplate Jesus with the man who has lost his foot. Then let Jesus wash your foot. Pour out your heart to him, telling him you are sorry for the loveless things you sometimes do, for being so engrossed in your own concerns, for the landmines that cluster in your heart.  Weep as he washes your feet. Feel the healing water on you. Let it run over the scarred limb of Sok Eim who sits beside you.

Ask to be aware of the wounds in the heart of God, the pain, the poverty, the indignity experienced by so many of our brothers and sisters that cause our God to weep.

Address God as a friend speaks to a friend. 

Talk to God about your response, your own needs and your deepest desires.

End your prayer with the Our Father, the prayer Jesus taught us.

Suggested Reading for Prayer

John 13:1-16

"If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another's feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do."


"Hatred never ceases by hatred but by love alone is healed."  Maha Ghoshananda, Cambodian Buddhist leader.