Wartime photography reached its apex in Vietnam. Photojournalism helped the world realize the extent of the conflict, and drove the reaction against it. One photograph among all the others still stands out – the absorbing image of a girl running, naked and arms splayed, from a napalm bomb. This photograph, taken by Huyng Cong Nick Ut, remains to this day one of the most influential moments in photojournalism.
Subjects of famous photographs are often left behind by history. The photographer takes the Pulitzer, while the subject remains unknown until coming out to the media decades later. Such is the case with National Geographic’s “Afghan Girl,” the nurse being kissed in Times Square, and the woman who became the face of the Great Depression. But Kim Phuc didn’t fall into the background – after being used by the Vietnamese government as a “national symbol of war” in propaganda films and interviews, she was granted asylum by Canada when she and her husband walked off a plane at a stop-over in Newfoundland. She was invited to the 1996 Veterans Day ceremonies in Washington, D.C., which led her to start the Kim Phuc Foundation to support children disabled by war, and to provide funding for similar organizations.
Now based in Toronto, part of her mission involves giving talks across the country, many of them at Campus for Christ events. This evening, McGill’s chapter will be hosting her. Andrew Williamson, a continuing education student and member of Campus for Christ, said “[Kim] is coming to talk about how her faith helped her to forgive. She ended up meeting…the man who bombed her village, and because of her faith she managed to forgive him.”
There are many ways of dealing with war, and faith is one of these. Kim’s viewpoint is explicitly Christian, and the talk will focus on her faith, but as a representative of the civilian perspective on war, she has garnered international and secular acclaim. Kim’s image came to define two decades of conflict in Vietnam, and her account of her experiences and the faith they engendered will not fall short of riveting.
Kim Phuc will speak tonight at 7 p.m. in Leacock 132. Price is $5 at the door, and refreshments will be served.