From Campus Review,
In 1972 it was the iconic image of nine-year-old Kim Phuc running naked from her burning Vietnamese village, screaming in agony from napalm fire, which was splashed across news pages around the world and made compelling the human cost of war.
Many say the image helped bring an end to the conflict. It went on to earn Associated Press photographer Nick Ut, who took Phuc to hospital, a Pulitzer Prize.
At Griffith University recently to present a photojournalism award, Phuc (pronounced Foo), now a UN Ambassador for Children, appealed for people to look at her image in a new way: “When you see the little girl running up the road you can see her calling out and crying out. Don’t see her as crying out in pain and fear. See her as crying out for peace. Thank you very much. May God bless you all.”
Phuc – after years of painful treatment, rehabilitation and tertiary education in Cuba – now works as a peace activist. She has since set up the Kim Foundation – her not-for profit-charity – and sent a Canadian nurse and doctor to Iraq to help treat the innocent victims of the conflict.
Phuc told more than 1000 guests at Griffith’s ceremony that her dream for the foundation was to help the “millions of children whose pictures weren’t taken” and those in the greatest need in Iraq and Uganda.
Phuc was born and raised in the village of Trang Bang, 30 minutes north of Saigon. But on 8 June, 1972, an American military advisor co-ordinated the napalm bombing of Phuc’s village by the South Vietnamese.
Phuc fled from a pagoda, where she and her family had been hiding. She was caught between four bombs and badly burnt. Two of her infant cousins did not survive the attack.
She recalled having to go to school through two wars, the Vietnam War, and then later, when she was 15, the war with Cambodia. Phuc appealed to her audience to practice forgiveness, beginning in people’s workplaces and schools.
“Having known war, I know the value of peace. Having lived under government control, I know the value of freedom. And having lived with pain, I know the healing power of love. Having lived with poverty, with losing everything and having nothing, I know how to value what I have.
“And the most important thing of all, having lived with hatred, terror and corruption, I know the power of faith and the power of forgiveness. Dear friend, napalm is very, very powerful; but faith and forgiveness is much more powerful than napalm could ever be.”