War criminal to Christian: the power of the gospel

No matter how sinful a person is, there is no one who’s beyond the saving grace of Christ. No matter how far from God is, there is no one who’s life can’t be changed. That’s the power of the gospel.

I first learned the story of a man named Comrade Duch in Lee Strobel’s book “The Case for Grace.” Duch passed away in Cambodia on Wednesday at the age of 77. His story is incredibly compelling.

Duch had been part of the tyrannical Khmer Rouge movement that was responsible for millions of deaths in his homeland in the 1970s. Specifically, Duch had been the head of S-21 prison camp where thousands of Cambodians were interrogated, tortured, and killed. Of roughly 20,000 people who were imprisoned at S-21, there were only 12 known survivors.

In 1995, Duch had had a dramatic conversion to Christianity under the ministry of Christopher LaPel, a Cambodian who had lost relatives at the infamous S-21 camp. At the time, LaPel had not known Duch’s identity, but he would later say in interviews  “Before he received Christ, he said he did a lot of bad things in his life,” LaPel recalls. “I don’ know if my brothers and sisters can forgive the sins I’ve committed against the people.”

Duch became an avid student of the Bible, eventually became a lay pastor. He worked with the Christian relief agency World Vision in the late 90s. In 1999, a journalist tracked Duch down and connected him to the atrocities in Cambodia.

Duch admitted his guilt.

In his confession and apology, Duch said:
I would like to apologise to all surviving victims and their families who were mercilessly killed at S-21. I say that I am sorry now, and I beg all of you to consider this wish. 

Duch was one of the few leaders of the Khmer Rouge to admit guilt for his crimes against humanity. After being convicted for his crimes in 2010, Duch spent the rest of his life in prison.

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