Phan Thi Kim Phuc, born in 1963 in Trang Bang, South Vietnam, is best known for the iconic photograph taken by Photographer Nick Ut of her at age nine running naked down the road after a napalm attack struck her village during the Vietnam war. Kim’s burns were so severe that she was not expected to survive, but 14 months and multiple surgeries later she was released from the hospital. Her time spent hospitalized inspired her to study medicine as a young adult; however her studies were put on hold when she was removed from university to be used as a propaganda symbol by her government. She eventually resumed her studies in Cuba, where she met her husband, another student from Vietnam. On their honeymoon, they disembarked during a layover and requested political asylum in Canada, which was granted. The events of Kim’s childhood left her with physical as well as psychological scars, not the least of which was an intense hatred for her situation and those responsible.
Searching for purpose, Kim spent much of her time reading, especially religious texts, one of which was the Bible. She describes the day she found God as a turning point, after which she began, slowly, to forgive. Kim has since set up the Kim Phuc Foundation (Later, the KIM Foundation), whose aim is to give child victims of war access to much needed medical and psychological care.
She frequently travels for speaking engagements, where she shares a message of love and forgiveness. For today, ponder this message from Kim:
“Forgiveness made me free from hatred. I still have many scars on my body and severe pain most days but my heart is cleansed. Napalm is very powerful but faith, forgiveness and love are much more powerful. We would not have war at all if everyone could learn how to live with true love, hope and forgiveness.”