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Sanctuary in captivity

A journalist's 40-day journey to freedom through prayer.

From the April 2011 issue of The Christian Science Journal

During my year of reporting for The Christian Science Monitor on the impact of the war in Vietnam at the end of the 1960s, I prayed daily to hear what the Christ—“. . . the divine message from God to men speaking to the human consciousness” (Science and Health, p. 332)—was telling me about the true nature of man in God’s peaceable kingdom. Despite the evidence of war and violence before my eyes, I refused to accept the conclusion that man is subject to some inexorable Cain-complex that compels him to kill his brother.

In May of 1970, I had the opportunity to test in my own experience the opposite, radical premise of the innate innocence of the man of God’s creating as understood in Christian Science. A week after the ground war in Vietnam spread to neighboring Cambodia, two other American journalists and I were captured by insurgents as we visited villages there. A mixed group of Viet Cong and Khmer Rouge stepped from behind trees, trained their rifles on us, and ordered us to get out of the van with our hands up. We were on the fringes of the “Parrot’s Beak” area that was quickly becoming the arena of fierce fighting.

At this stage the Khmer Rouge were new, unknown guerrillas; only later, after they had murdered more than a quarter of their fellow ethnic Cambodian population, did they get their “Killing Fields” reputation. Also, at this early stage of the Cambodian war there was as yet no established pattern of dealing with captured Western journalists.

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