Cambodia is a land with a very long history. Like all countries, some of that history has left deep scars on the people which will probably never be completely healed. From 1975 to 1979, the country was controlled by the Khmer Rouge. During that four-year period some two million people died from political executions, starvation and forced labor. There is not one family in Cambodia that did not endure this terrible suffering.
Since 1979 the country has been struggling to rebuild and there has been much progress. Rich in culture and energy, life has come back for the majority of the people. Markets thrive, new buildings are being constructed, schools and universities are full of eager students, and the NGO (Non- Government Organization) movement is strong and healthy.
Yet, fear and distrust remain. War always leaves behind a legacy of wounds that cry out for healing. More than 30 years after the fighting stopped, landmines still cover some areas of potentially rich farmland. Children become victims to the unexploded mines, losing arms, legs, eyes or very abruptly their lives.
The country was also saturated with guns of all kinds and they caused much misery as there was no control over them and they very often became the means of settling disputes.
Around 1997 the government called for people to turn in their weapons as a way of ridding the country of at least some of the remnants of the long and bloody war. Thousands did, and some of these weapons were melted down to create the Twisted Gun sculpture that now rests in a central location in Phnom Penh. This sculpture, unveiled in May 1998, has become a symbol of the dreams of a peaceful county and a peaceful future for the people.
Another project also continues reflecting the hopes of the Khmer people for peace. The Peace Art Project Cambodia uses triggers, gun barrels and rifle butts to create a variety of works of art. The art students who work on the projects are all survivors of the civil war that destroyed so much of the country. Turning weapons of destruction into these intriguing art pieces is a unique way of “turning swords into plowshares.” It illustrates that all of the resources God has given us can be either used for beauty or for war. The decision is up to us how we will manage these resources. For some Cambodia people transforming the materials that killed so many of their neighbors and family members and left such deep scars across the country can be a healing process, not just for themselves but for all those who take the time to view their work and reflect deeply on the human responsibility to build hope and peace.
For more information see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z9mEVi2CDmU and http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/3979163.stm.