Srey Peu (33) made a big effort to watch the ‘Spean Metrey’ (‘Bridge of peace and reconciliation’) show by the Bible Society of Cambodia – in fact, despite being pregnant she had travelled 100km from her village to Siem Reap to attend it, perched with her six-year-old daughter, Rebecca, on the back of her husband’s old motorbike. Her husband was going to be an usher there. What she didn’t expect, however, was that she would be so deeply touched by its message.
But as she sat in the audience, sore and uncomfortable from the long journey, watching Cambodian performers singing, dancing and acting to tell the story of God’s love and forgiveness for humanity, she felt something blossoming in her heart.
“I understood in a new way that God loves Cambodia and that he really is the God of us, the Khmer people, too,” she smiled. “I saw that he can speak directly through our culture and our language. Jesus came to save everyone, regardless of ethnicity. The whole message of forgiveness and reconciliation sank deeply into my heart.”
And it wasn’t just Peu who was affected – lively Rebecca sat quietly by her side, riveted by the performance, and stayed up late that night, asking her parents questions about what she’d seen.
“We can’t wait to go back to our village and share what we’ve experienced,” smiles Peu. “All Cambodians need to hear and understand that God loves them, and that we can be reconciled with our past and live in peace through him.”
This family is just one of many who attended this second performance of ‘Spean Metrey’, held in Siem Reap on October 31. The first was held in April in the capital, Phnom Penh, to commemorate exactly 40 years since the Khmer Rouge marched into the city and began their four-year reign of terror. Millions died and Cambodians are still living with the painful legacy of that time, and of the wars that preceded and followed it.
Emotional topic for Cambodians
The Bible Society’s ‘Spean Metrey’ show is aimed at helping to bring healing to Cambodians through sharing God’s love for them, and teaching that his peace and forgiveness is available to everyone. It is a very relevant and emotional topic for Cambodians, not one of whom is untouched by their country’s harrowing past. Many who attended the show were non-Christians or new believers who knew very little about the Bible.
One woman was so moved that she had to leave the show for a while and was found weeping in the bathroom by an usher.
San Riem’s reaction to the show was more joyful: she beamed as she told Bible Society staff how thrilled she felt to have watched it all.
‘Nothing foreign in the performance’
“There was nothing foreign in the performance at all – it was all for Khmer people!” she exclaimed. “I loved the way the screen showed the globe and then zoomed in on Cambodia. It made me see in a very special way that God really loves Cambodia and its people.
“It made me feel so loved and valued. It was like a light had been turned on inside me. God became more real and personal to me. It became a sacred moment of basking in his love.”
Riem also spoke about the theme of forgiveness and reconciliation, which was at the heart of the performance.
“This message is so crucial to Cambodia, after all the things that have happened here. I believe that Jesus can bring peace and reconciliation to our people. I needed to hear this message, and other people need to hear it, too.”
Adapted from a report by Ruth Craddock Sok-Nhep, Acting Executive Director, Bible Society of Cambodia.