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January 2009

As We Forgive our Enemies

January 30, 2009
By Catherine Larson

Today’s BreakPoint commentary features Bishop John Rucyahana, winner of the 2009 Wilberforce award. It is given each year to a person who makes a difference in the face of formidable societal problems and injustices. I first interviewed Bishop John in 2004. The stories he told were one of my biggest motivations in later returning to write As We Forgive. Rucyahana helped to begin the Umuvumu Tree reconciliation program in Rwanda, featured in this short video and in chapters one to three of my book. He also founded Sonrise School, which is featured in chapters four to six of my book. Prison Fellowship International created this video, and it gives an idea of the radical nature of forgiveness and the very tangible acts of reconciliation that are happening in some parts of Rwanda today.

Bishop John is shown in the very end of this clip. He says, one of my favorite lines, "Forgiveness and repentance and the embrace of reconciliation at the end--it was like a miracle to the world." (Just a note, this video is several years old, so the numbers of those being held in prisons in Rwanda is out of date.)

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

January 27, 2009
By Catherine Larson

In 2005, the UN General Assembly declared January 27th as the International Holocaust Remembrance Day to honor the victims of the Nazi era. This day is the 64th anniversary of the liberation of Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. And on this day, we honor the millions of Jews and other victims of the Holocaust.

I think it is also a fitting day to examine our own hearts for places where we’ve let resentment, hatred or prejudice take root. When we begin to move in our thinking about a person from specific instances of wrongdoing to absolute statements like “he always” or “she never,” we turn people into caricatures of themselves. And a caricature is the first-step in the process of dehumanization. That caricature enables us to harden our hearts toward someone. And when our hearts become hard, there is no room for empathy, for shared understanding. A world without empathy is a world where Aushwitz is possible.  But a world where we continually remember the shared humanity of our brothers and sisters is a world where the possibility of Aushwitz crumbles. 

Barring the doors

January 21, 2009
By Catherine Larson

According to the BBC, "Congolese soldiers have been accused of barring UN troops and aid staff" from the area where Rwandan troops are working to oust the Hutu militia (FDLR). To read the full story, click here. I must be honest, this scares me.

"A Dangerous Gamble"

January 20, 2009
By Catherine Larson

Rwandan troops have moved into the Democratic Republic of Congo today to hunt down members of the FDLR, remnants of the Hutu militia who fled across the border during the 1994 genocide and who were responsible for much of the killing then, as well as current-day raids on Congolese Tutsi.

According to the Telegraph the operation " had been jointly planned with Congo's army and would last 10 to 15 days." Rebel leader General Laurent Nkunda says he has been fighting to rid the country of the FDLR because he believes DR Congo is unable to do the job. Theoretically, if the FDLR is disbanded, Nkunda's military mission will be gone as well. GlobalSecurity.com indicates that there are between 15,000 and 20,000 FDLR troops in DR Congo.

The Telegraph calls this a "dangerous gamble that could help solve one of the world's worst conflicts, but risks plunging Central Africa back into a period of intense and bloody violence." Time is even less optimistic in its assessment, "The Rwandan mission may be aimed at bringing peace. But they are not coming in peace, and in Congo that has always led to more war."

Martin Luther King Jr. on Forgiveness

January 19, 2009
By Catherine Larson

A couple weeks ago, I ran across a sermon delivered by Martin Luther King at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church on Christmas of 1957. It deals with the question of how do we love our enemies. The answer according to King lies in forgiveness. His words are so eloquent, I want to include them in their entirety here, especially on this MLK day:

"First, we must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. It is impossible even to begin the act of loving one's enemies without the prior acceptance of the necessity, over and over again, of forgiving those who inflict evil and injury upon us. It is also necessary to realize that the forgiving act must always be initiated by the person who has been wronged, the victim of some great hurt, the recipient of some tortuous injustice, the absorber of some terrible act of oppression. The wrongdoer may request forgiveness. He may come to himself, and, like the prodigal son, move up some dusty road, his heart palpitating with the desire for forgiveness. But only the injured neighbor, the loving father back home, can really pour out the warm waters of forgiveness.

"Forgiveness does not mean ignoring what has been done or putting a false label on an evil act. It means, rather, that the evil act no longer remains as a barrier to the relationship. Forgiveness is a catalyst creating the atmosphere necessary for a fresh start and a new beginning. It is the lifting of a burden or the canceling of a debt. The words 'I will forgive you, but I'll never forget what you've done' never explain the real nature of forgiveness. Certainly one can never forget, if that means erasing it totally from his mind. But when we forgive, we forget in the sense that the evil deed is no longer a mental block impeding a new relationship. Likewise, we can never say, 'I will forgive you, but I won't have anything further to do with you.' Forgiveness means reconciliation, a coming together again. Without this, no man can love his enemies

Continue reading "Martin Luther King Jr. on Forgiveness" »

Templeton Grant Given to Film-maker Laura Waters Hinson

January 12, 2009
By Catherine Larson

Congratulations to documentary film-maker Laura Waters Hinson who recently learned that she had been awarded a $262,000 grant from the Templeton foundation. The grant will allow her to take the film, As We Forgive, which inspired my book, to Rwanda for its international premiere in April. It will also cover the costs for a Rwandan screening tour director to take the film to schools, villages, and churches across Rwanda to encourage dialogue about forgiveness. Click here to read the full story.

Here's a trailer for her film. In it you will see five of the people whose stories are also in my book:

Congratulations, Laura!

Links of Note

January 03, 2009
By Catherine Larson