Key Points:

The Vietnam War stole her childhood, but Kim Phuc considers a photograph taken of her as a 9-year-old running naked after being severely burned by a bomb during the same war as one of her "greatest gifts".

Kim - better known as "the girl in the picture" - is in New Zealand for a series of public meetings in churches on forgiveness and reconciliation.

"The picture was one of the first things my father showed me when I returned from hospital 14 months after it was taken, and I hated it then," Kim said. "But now I consider it as a gift from God, and it has helped open so many doors to bring a message of forgiveness and hope to so many people around the world."

The photograph of Kim running for safety with other children - after South Vietnamese planes dropped napalm on her village in 1972 - became one of the most famous depictions of the Vietnam War. It was taken by Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Nick Ut.

"When I first saw it, I thought it was so ugly, and for many years, I refused to even look at it," she said. "But over the years, I have learned to take control of the picture and not let the photograph control me."

After that picture was taken, Kim was left for dead in the city morgue - she was eventually found by her mother with the help of the medical people who treated her burns over many years.

But the discovery that "the girl in the famous picture was alive" led to her being apprehended by the Vietnamese communist authorities who used her as a means to spread their propaganda.

Kim escaped in 1992 to Canada, where she now lives, and has made it her "purpose in life" to spread the word that forgiveness and restoration of relationships can make the world a better place.

She is here as a guest of International Needs, a Christian mission organisation, and will be speaking this Sunday evening at the Windsor Park Baptist Church on the North Shore.

Almost two-thirds of Kim's body was seared by napalm, but she says every time she looked at her scars, it reminded her of how "each event and every day of my life is a blessing, and a miracle". She thinks it would be hard for New Zealanders to fully understand what she went through because they have never experienced war.

Kim, who is on her fifth visit here, said: "Although New Zealanders have not suffered physically, many are suffering emotionally - from greed, hatred and the inability to forgive - and these are sometimes much harder to remedy and heal than physical wounds."