When Zhou was 22, Japanese soldiers came to her village in eastern China, grabbed her and her sister-in-law and carted them off to a military brothel, she says.
Now 91, Zhou has broken decades of silence to speak of her traumatic experience as a "comfort woman" -- the euphemism the invading Japanese used to describe women forced into sex slavery.
"I hid with my husband's sister under a millstone. Later, the Japanese soldiers discovered us and pulled us out by our legs. They tied us both to their vehicle. Later they used more ropes to tie and secure us and drove us away," she told Reuters in her home village in Jiangsu province.
"They then took us to the 'comfort woman lodge'. There was nothing good there," she said, speaking through a local government official who struggled to translate her thick dialect into Mandarin.
"For four to five hours a day, it was torture. They gave us food afterwards, but every day we cried and we just did not want to eat it," Zhou added, sitting in her sparsely decorated home.
Not only is the term "comfort women" a euphemism, even the term "brothel" does not convey the true atmosphere. These women were not used as prostitutes; they were repeatedly and brutally raped as the Japanese soldiers took out their anger and aggression on the young women. It is truly one of the most shameful episodes in century full of shameful events.
But just as sad to me is this woman's current state:
This harrowing experience has left a deep scar on Zhou's life. She cannot forget, and nor can she forgive.
"If it were you, wouldn't you hate them? Of course I hate them. But after the war, all the Japanese went home. I'm already so old. I think they are all dead by now," Zhou said.
For 60 years this woman has steeped in the bitterness of the months she spent in slavery. Who knows how much this hatred has limited her ability to love her son and others around her...Maybe it's my recent reading of Corrie ten Boom's story in The Hiding Place that put Zhou's story in such stark relief. If anyone ever had reason to be bitter or refuse to forgive, Corrie was a good candidate. And yet she came out of a prison camp that nearly killed her (and was due to "exterminate" her the following week) and spent the next decades demonstrating the love and forgiveness of Jesus to all who would listen to her. Unlike Zhou, Corrie actually had the chance to meet some of those who had held her captive, and so her forgiveness was tested in deed, not just in word. In one of the hardest acts of her life, she extended the hand of forgiveness to one of the cruelest of the guards who had tormented her. And when she died, she had the assurance that her time as a prisoner was not wasted; God used it in ways that would have been impossible without it. Our precious Chinese woman, though, has allowed her hatred of evil to become hatred of the people involved and it has infected parts of her life that could have been priceless gifts to those around her.
What a difference Jesus makes! How thankful I am for His example! How thankful I am for those in my life who daily demonstrate for me what it means to forgive and to live free of the hatred that the world says they "deserve" to harbor. How blessed we are that we can echo Joseph's words even to those who would kill us, "You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result." (Gen. 50:20 NASB)