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April 2009

Live Chat Tonight, 9 pm EDT

April 30, 2009
By Catherine Larson

I'll be live-chatting tonight about As We Forgive over on Thinking Christian. Join us for the discussion. It ought to be a lively one.

Tom Gilson, the blog's author, has had a three-part review up this week with some very kind words for the book. He writes, "I have just experienced one of the most remarkable books of my life." That's pretty hefty praise. He goes on to share a bit of his own personal struggles in losing two family members to murder. He writes:

I come from a very small town, from very middle-class roots. My mother’s parents were both immigrants from Norway, homesteaders in North Dakota, hard-working, God-fearing people. They moved their large family to Michigan late in the 1920s, to a small town south of Flint, which at the time was very much a thriving community. All of their children—my mother and aunts and uncles—lived out their values of hard work, love, and respect. You wouldn’t think that two of their grandchildren would meet their ends through murder.

My cousin Jeanette was jogging in a park in Lansing. It took fifteen years to identify her murderer, which finally happened through some outstanding detective work aided by a virtual miracle of evidence found after all those years. Her case was featured on the A&E channel’s Cold Case Files show. I didn’t see it when it first aired. I happened on it while alone in a hotel room on a business trip, surfing through channels with the remote control. Let me give you this advice I hope you never need: if you are ever going to see the story of a relative’s murder on TV, don’t do it while alone far from home. I could hardly bear to watch it. It wasn’t that the story was new to me; I had been keeping up with it all along through the family. But it was brutal to see it played out before me on the television screen. I could hardly stand watching it, but there was no way I could turn it off, either. This was family. At the end they interviewed my Aunt Muriel and my cousin Joe, Jeannette’s brother. I sat there watching, crying, alone.

My cousin Brian was walking his dog in an upscale gated community just west of Orlando. A car drove by, going too fast, and he called out to them to slow down. Somebody got out of the car with a gun and shot him for it. I saw him in the hospital a few weeks later, again while traveling alone on a business trip. The first time I saw him—well, to describe his condition would be to go beyond the bounds of what I ought to write. He hardly looked human. The second time I saw him, a few months later, there appeared to be hope. He was able to sit up in bed, and was in good spirits. But he succumbed to a final infection. His killer was never identified.

I'm very humbled by stories like these and how the book is being used to reach across cultures and touch lives, working in massive wounds and small ones alike to bring the power of hope.

Blog Tour

April 22, 2009
By Catherine Larson

This is week two in what I hope will be about a one hundred day blog tour designed to highlight ways people can get involved in supporting reconciliation efforts in Rwanda. So far, here's the schedule:

I'm still finalizing details on the weeks after that, so check back in to see where I'll be next. And if you've found your way here from one of these blogs, stay a while, and be sure to check out my get involved page to find more details on some of the great groups working to promote reconciliation in Rwanda today. Dig deeper with one of them and think about how you might be able to support their work.

100 Days of Hope

April 14, 2009
By Catherine Larson

This time of year in Rwanda is a difficult time of remembrance. One of the people I interviewed in the book wrote me recently to request prayers for his fiance. They have recently unearthed another mass grave and will finally be able to bury her father, 15 years after the genocide. The pain still gnaws through to the surface. It is still fresh--real.

I find myself often wanting to do something to help. I have been so encouraged and challenged by the faith and forgiveness of Rwandans that I want in some way to give back.

I'm hoping that I can do a little of that over the next 100 days. Coinciding with the remembrance of the 100 days of horror, I'm planning to stop at a different blog each week to raise awareness about the ongoing need and work of reconciliation, as well as the many great organizations that are at work in rebuilding, reconciling, and restoring lives and communities. (I've already made my first stop at the Dawn Treader blog. Check it out here.)

If you aren't familiar with some of the organizations involved in Rwandan reconciliation, take a look at my Get Involved page, just as a place to start. There are lots of meaningful ways, both big and small, we can support those in Rwanda. It can be as small as drinking a cup of Rwandan coffee to as big as paying a year's worth oftuition for a Rwandan orphan or sponsoring the building of a house by a repentant ex-prisoner for a survivor. There are many meaningful ways we can share in carrying this heavy load.

For each person who has purchased a book, you've already unknowingly given to that goal, as a portion of the proceeds of each sale go directly to support reconciliation in Rwanda. But pick a way to help a little more, and perhaps together we can make "Never Again" a reality for Rwanda by being a part of the reconciliation that brings shalom.

I Saw What I Saw

April 14, 2009
By Catherine Larson

This is the time of remembrance in Rwanda, and lately as I've been thinking and praying for my brothers and sisters in Rwanda, this song has come to mind. Sara Groves puts words and melody to how much these stories have changed me. The least I can do in return for the hope and courage so many Rwandans have given me is to remember, pray, and walk alongside.

Rwanda 15 Years Ago Today

April 06, 2009
By Catherine Larson

On this day, 15 years ago, Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana's plane plummeted from the sky after being hit by a missile. It became the albatross around the neck of the Tutsi people when Hutu claimed that the RPF shot it down. The most widely accepted theory today is that radical Hutu unsatisfied with the direction of the peace talks, assasinated the Rwandan and Burundian presidents. Either way, the sudden streak of a missile and the fiery light of a falling plane were a diabolical kind of fireworks that night--evil's unseemly opening ceremonies to a hundred days of slaughter that would consume the country.

Within hours of the plane's metal shrapnel gashing Rwandan soil, Hutu sharpened their machetes to do likewise. Radios hissed a message that "the season for slaughter" had arrived. In the days to follow, Hutu killed the Tutsi and their sympathizers at a rate five times higher than the mechanized Nazi gas chambers.

Hope Amidst the Bones

April 06, 2009
By Catherine Larson

This week Newsweek features Chairman of Prison Fellowship Rwanda, Bishop John Rucyahana, who returned to his Rwandan homeland after the genocide to help rebuild the broken nation. Ellis Cose documents some of his experiences in this week's piece:

When Rucyahana got back to Uganda in mid-July, he rented a minibus, hired a driver and took to the road with 10 other pastors. They crossed into Rwanda and made their way to Nyamata, near Kigali, the capital. The violence had died down but death was everywhere: "We saw mass graves; we saw dead bodies. In one home, we found 27 dead bodies. . . ."

Rucyahana had to act. Initially, he ran seminars, urging people to repent and rebuild. But that wasn't enough. So in 1996, he packed up his family and returned to the land of his birth to preach hope standing on "a pile of bones," as he puts it. One of his first tasks was to build a boarding school for orphans: "Having lost a million people, lots of babies were left behind." The school in Musanze, near the Volcanoes National Park, opened in 2001. It is now one of the best schools in the country. It is called Sonrise, which, Rucyahana explains, "means the Son of God rises into the misery, into our darkness."

I share part of Bishop John's story, and one of the stories of a student at the Sonrise School/Orphanage in As We Forgive. To read his full memoir, take a look at his own The Bishop of Rwanda. I'm so glad that the wider world is being introduced to Bishop John, the recipient of BreakPoint's 2009 Wilberforce Award, and to the amazing things God has been doing in the aftermath of this tragedy.


Closing Interview with Mary DeMuth

April 06, 2009
By Catherine Larson

Today, the closing interview with author Mary DeMuth on As We Forgive is online. To read all of the six part series, click here. I really appreciated the wonderful in-depth questions that Mary asked, and the way she particularly challenged me to connect the message of the book with her readers. I highly recommend Mary's latest novel, Daisy Chain, a coming of age story that has been compared to To Kill a Mockingbird and Peace Like a River.

Faithful Reader "Highly Recommends" As We Forgive

April 06, 2009
By Catherine Larson

Marcia Ford at The Faithful Reader reviews As We Forgive:

Few stories of cultural transformation are as compelling as the story of Rwanda's ongoing recovery from the unthinkable brutality the country suffered in the spring of 1994. As the 15th anniversary of the horrific genocide approaches in April 2009, a number of books, films and documentaries are being released not only to remind people of the horror but also to show them the remarkable progress toward reconciliation and healing that the country is experiencing today.

That progress is nothing short of a miracle --- not by the trite use of the word "miracle" that has been cheapened by overuse and misapplication, but miracle in the purest sense: a change brought about by divine intervention in human affairs.

Continue reading "Faithful Reader "Highly Recommends" As We Forgive" »

By Faith Magazine Q&A

April 06, 2009
By Catherine Larson

Melissa Morgan of By Faith Magazine interviewed me a couple of week's ago about As We Forgive. Here's how the conversation unfolded.

The Economics of Reconciliation

April 02, 2009
By Catherine Larson

Last night I had the privilege to speak on a panel at the Center for American Progress. The event entitled 15 Years Later: The State of Rwandan Reconciliation was sponsored by Indego Africa and the Rwanda International Network Association, a group of Rwandans living in the United States. Its intent was to mark the 15th anniversary of the genocide and to present an in-depth look at the state of political and ethnic reconciliation in Rwanda. Jackson Mvunganyi, co-host of Up Front on Voice of America radio moderated the panel which aside from me included:

  • Matthew Mitro, Founder and CEO of Indego Africa
  • Karol Boudreaux, Professor of Law at George Mason University; Lead Researcher at Enterprise Africa! a project of the Mercatus Center
  • Augustin Mutemberize, International Trade Specialist, Africa Trade Office; formerly of the Rwandan Ministry of Finance
  • Andrew Jones, Director of Policy Analysis, CARE USA; former Program Director, CARE Rwanda.

When I wasn't speaking, I was listening intently! There's a lot of fascinating research happening today in the intersection of social entrepreneurship, economics and reconciliation.

In Rwanda, for example, the research done by Karol Boudrequx of Enterprise Africa! has shown two positive results occuring as a result of Rwandan coffee production:

1) Liberalization strategies alleviate poverty and develop human capital. By removing pervasive and oppressive government controls over coffee production and sale, the Rwandan government has created space for smallholder farmers to be entrepreneurial, create new ties with foreign buyers, develop valuable skills, and increase their incomes.
2) Liberalization has had the unanticipated benefit of reconciliation. Liberalization in the coffee sector creates new incentives for smallholder farmers in Rwanda to work together for a common goal: improving their lives through the production of high quality specialty coffee. Working together toward this common goal has helped Rwandans to reconcile with each other in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide.

These positive outcomes suggest that a focus on economic liberalization in post-conflict environments may pay large dividends in terms of both economic development and peace.

You can read the full report here. And you can support the reconciliation that is happening through coffee collectives by buying Rwandan coffee at your local Costco, Starbucks, or even better through the faith-based Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee. I've not only had Land of a Thousand Hills coffee, but also given it as gifts and can highly recommend the product and the organization. And for other upcoming speaking engagements related to my book As We Forgive: Stories of Reconciliation from Rwanda,  please visit my website calendar.