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Kim Phuc, Woman in Iconic 1972 Vietnam War Photo, Learns to Forgive Through Her Christian Faith

( [email protected] ) Jun 27, 2015 07:34 PM EDT
The iconic image that portrayed the horrors of the Vietnam War featured a 9-year-old girl running away naked from a napalm attack, suffering from burns back in 1972. That girl, Kim Phuc, recently met the photographer who shot that picture and is now a Christian.
Photojournalist Nick Ut and Kim Phuc (L) attend the presentation of the latest Leica equipment at Photokina 2012, the world's largest fair for imaging, in Cologne September 17, 2012. Ut took the iconic 1972 Vietnam War photograph of Kim Phuc running naked down a road after being burned in a napalm attack near Trang Bang. More than 1,200 exhibitors from 45 countries will show their latest products at the Photokina 2012 from September 18-23. REUTERS/Ina Fassbender

The iconic image that portrayed the horrors of the Vietnam War featured a 9-year-old girl running away naked from a napalm attack, suffering from burns back in 1972. That girl, Kim Phuc, recently met the photographer who shot that famous picture and is now a Christian.

According to Dianne Bourne of the Mirror, 52-year-old Phuc reunited with Vietnamese photographer Nick Ut, who took the picture that made front page news around the world, in England. She now works as a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador and campaigns for peace around the world.

"When I look at the image I'm just amazed that I'm still alive, I'm so grateful and thankful for that," Phuc said. "I have learned from tragedy, from the pain, from the challenges, and I'm so grateful to be healed."

Phuc added that her traumatic experience, along with her Christian faith, allowed her to "do my best to help victims of war around the world."

"I am grateful for what happened to me because it made my faith strong and it made my body strong," Phuc said. "I like to say the world gave that little girl in the picture a sour lemon, but I have made it into a lemonade."

Ut told the Mirror that he constantly gets asked a lot about his award-winning image.

"I hate war, and I knew when I had taken that photo it was the one that would stop the war," Ut said. "I had photographed the war for so many years and all I hoped is that I could one day take a picture to stop the war and this finally did it."

Ut added that his photograph "made front pages everywhere in the world and made people see what was really happening."

"So for me, that made it the best picture in the world," Ut quipped.

According to the Mirror, Ut took the young Phuc and her family to hospital, where doctors feared that she would not recover from her severe burns. However, Phuc beat the odds, survived, and forged a lifelong friendship with the photographer.

"I'm a girl, so of course when I first saw it I didn't like it," Phuc said about the first time she saw Ut's photo. "I said 'why he take that picture I look ugly, why am I naked?' but I had to learn to accept it."

Phuc added that she was "happy" after learning to "accept the picture as a powerful gift."

According to Paula Newton and Thom Patterson of CNN, Phuc, who now lives in Toronto as a wife and mother, underwent countless painful skin grafts and surgeries that helped heal her physical wounds. However, she did not find peace until she became a Christian at 19 years old; she credited God for saving her life.

"When I became Christian, I have a wonderful connection -- the relationship between me, and Jesus, and God," Phuc said. "And from that point, I learned to forgive."

According to CNN, Phuc radiated "an unmistakable poise and peace when she tells her story." She noted that the picture is just one of many blessings.

"I really want to thank God that he spared my life when I was a little girl," Phuc said. "Whatever happened to me, I have another opportunity to be alive, to be healthful, to be a blessing, to help honor other people."

Phuc told CNN that the terrified little girl in the picture is "not running anymore. She's flying." She established a charity called the Kim Foundation International, which is aimed at helping children suffering from war.

"Its mission is to help the most underprivileged children suffering from war -- building hospitals, schools and homes for children who have been orphaned," Newton and Patterson wrote.

Phuc indicated to CNN that she would live out her life in service of that mission.

"That's why I'm really thankful that I had that picture taken and I can work with that picture for peace," Phuc said.


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