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.

World Magazine Reviews As We Forgive

March 27, 2009
By Catherine Larson

I'm very thankful for the string of positive reviews As We Forgive has been getting. Here's another from the latest edition of World Magazine. This is by Susan Olasky:

As We Forgive | Catherine Claire Larson
Catherine Claire Larson traveled to Rwanda to learn about the forgiveness journeys of both victims and perpetrators of the 1994 genocide. She tells the victims' brutal stories of murder, rape, and betrayal, and also tells the murderers' stories of joining the killing madness and (in some cases) becoming weighed down by guilt and shame. Larson describes face-to-face meetings between the guilty and the innocent, and how repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation occurred. She sensitively conveys her subjects' stories and pulls from them lessons about forgiveness that all of us must learn.

Corroborating "The Truth About Forgiveness"

March 27, 2009
By Catherine Larson

Since Sunday, folks have been telling me about the Washington Post Magazine's piece The Truth About Forgiveness. I finally had the chance to read it today and was blown away. The story follows Bernard Williams and the murder of his son nicknamed Beethoven by a neighbor William Norman. The writer, Karen Houppart, does a fantastic job recreating not only the crime, but the subsequent meeting in prison between this bereaved father and the neighbor who killed his son. I won't give away the ending but there is definite movement toward forgiveness and reconciliation in this piece.

It struck me while I was reading it that this is the same story I've told in As We Forgive, only in a different context. The chronology is even the same. This murder happened in Baltimore in 1994. The murders I write about happened in Rwanda in 1994. And so the length of time that has gone by for the bereaved is also the same. The methods used to bring healing are very much the same: restorative encounters between offender and victim, marked by remorse and repentance on behalf of the guilty and risk and radical grace on behalf of the offended. The truths that get them there transcend context.

The writer mentions a movement in our society toward embracing forgiveness, not just for those from a religious background, but by scientific research also. Here's a snippet:

While spiritual leaders have long asked folks to accept the benefits of forgiveness on faith, the secular world has lately jumped on the bandwagon -- and proffered scientific evidence to support this view.

She goes on to cite some studies by Dr. Everett Worthington, one of the leading researchers on forgiveness, and an expert I also frequently cite in my book.

I'm delighted to see mainstream media picking up on stories like this because it brings restorative justice to the attention and understanding of ordinary people, and holds out an alternative to the bitterness that can hold the victim in bonds as strong as those that bind the perpetrator.

Here's a great related video the Post linked to on restorative justice efforts:

And a second video:

Publishers' Weekly Plugs As We Forgive

March 25, 2009
By Catherine Larson

Books Bring Home Wrenching Conflicts in Africa
by Elizabeth Eisenstadt Evans -- Publishers Weekly, 3/23/2009

Neither author Chris Herlinger nor photographer Paul Jeffrey could have predicted that their book on Darfur would be published just as events in the Sudanese region hit still another crisis point, with Sudan President Omar Hassan-Al Bashir responding to his arrest warrant by expelling humanitarian aid groups. Where Mercy Fails: Darfur’s Struggle to Survive (Seabury Press, March) illuminates both the plight and the resilience of the millions of refugees who have fled in the face of attacks by government forces and militia known as Janjaweed.

“There’s a tendency to convert these people into helpless victims. They’re not,” said Jeffrey, a photojournalist for the United Methodist Church. Of the 60 countries he’s covered, he added, Darfur’s images of suffering and struggle stayed with him long after editing the pictures back in the United States. Herlinger’s narration features extensive interviews with refugees and aid workers, while it also explores the dilemmas faced by Westerners attempting humanitarian intervention.

Bill Falvey, publicity and special sales manager at Church Publishing, which owns Seabury, characterizes the book’s market as humanitarian. Special outreach to faith-based groups includes author appearances and signings at offices of Church World Service, where Herlinger works, and to Schools of Christian Mission, educational programs offered by United Methodist Women. “Both evangelical and mainline news associations are included in this particular (publicity) campaign,” said Falvey, underlining the book’s emphasis on how Darfur has provided common ground for humanitarian activism by both groups. In addition, there is “fairly significant” marketing to secular media and readers that includes an early April launch event in New York.

Rwanda, another African country with a history of bloodshed, is the subject of two new Zondervan books. As We Forgive: Stories of Reconciliation from Rwanda by Claire Larson (Feb.) examines reconciliation in the lives of 14 Rwandans -- victims, orphans and perpetrators of the massacre that killed 800,000 of their countrymen. Mirror to the Church: Resurrecting Faith after Genocide in Rwanda by Emmanuel Katongole with Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove (Feb.) explores the meaning of global Christian hope in the wake of the mass killings.

“Right now, there is significant mainstream media interest as well as Christian media interest for both books,” said Karen Campbell, Zondervan director of public relations, adding that the publisher anticipates heightened interest as the 15th anniversary of the slaughter approaches. Author appearances and book-signings are scheduled across the country and both volumes are doing well, she said.

Relevant Magazine Reviews As We Forgive

March 25, 2009
By Catherine Larson

Review: As We Forgive, by Josh Wilson, Relevant Magazine online

To most people, the horror and aftermath of genocide is a completely foreign idea. It’s a newspaper headline, a faint memory of a missionary story or an unknown crisis altogether. For Rwandans, it is an unforgettable part of daily life. Catherine Claire Larson outlines the situation of Rwanda’s 1994 genocide and its lingering presence in her recent book As We Forgive.

The book, which is based on Laura Waters Hinson’s film, is a collection of first-hand stories of those most directly affected by genocide’s ruthless blade: the orphans, widows and killers. Life goes on after the genocide, but now former murderers must coexist with victims. Larson explores the only solution capable of peace and healing for Rwanda’s deep wounds—forgiveness.

Larson relates beautifully written stories of pre-genocide home, family and daily Rwandan life to a recent event that changed everything. In 2003, 40,000 convicted genocide perpetrators were released back into society due to overcrowded prisons. Larson writes of the unavoidable interaction of these prisoners (and those that continue to be released since then) with those they previously hunted, the Tutsi people.

Larson tells the escape stories of seven main characters who narrowly survived the native Hutu people’s attempt to eradicate the Tutsis. The narrative follows the survivors and their difficult journeys gradually leading to forgiveness of those who wronged them. Larson includes survivors’ stories that range from their escape, the slaughter of their family and friends, physical injury and torment, and hiding in the mud or brush for days. These survivors escaped death, but their family, friends and former way of life did not. The author shows how the shattered lives of these victims are being restored through forgiveness and reconciliation. She shares their stories of facing the very ones responsible for killing their loved ones and destroying their lives. In the process, the victims as well as the offenders find peace.

The sheer dramatic nature of these stories is enough to keep your interest. In the complexity and gravity of these stories of forgiveness, the reconciliation that Larson writes of is almost ironic or unnatural—former murderers and their victims’ family members living side-by-side in peace—but beautiful. Comprehending these scenarios gave me some insight into the nature of forgiveness that I hadn’t thought of before. If the reader is struggling with some kind of forgiveness, they only need to look at these lives to realize that their struggles pale in comparison.

In telling the accounts of real-life forgiveness, Larson analyzes the spiritual and psychological struggles and solutions of victims between chapters of her stories. She breaks down what the reader may initially tend to simplify and shows the nature of forgiveness and how people get there. Her analysis strives to go beyond skimming the surface of forgiveness and establishes the path to reconciliation and peace. She outlines the efforts, people and organizations that are reaching out to surviving Rwandan victims. She shows through her characters that the only way to experience complete forgiveness is through God’s grace.

As We Forgive sheds light on the movement in Rwanda toward reconciliation and explores personal stories of healing in the most unlikely ways. Throughout the book, an extreme importance is placed on forgiveness—something that is so often overlooked or buried for those living without such extreme circumstances. These are stories that most people will never know or experience, but Larson hopes they can inspire her readers to experience reconciliation in their own relationships.

As We Forgive Book-signings

March 23, 2009
By Catherine Larson

I had two book-signings this past weekend. The first one was at my local Borders Bookstore in Sterling, Virginia.  This photograph below with my husband was taken at the end of my four hours there. As you can see, at the end of the time, there were only 3 copies left on the shelf--so all in all a good showing. It was encouraging to talk with several book-lovers who had an interest and curiosity about Africa and what is happening today in Rwanda.

Borders pic   

Also, this past weekend, I signed books at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, Virginia. What a joy to meet so many there who have traveled to Rwanda and who have likewise been touched by the forgiveness they have witnessed in the heart of the Rwandans they have met. It was an honor to share with the Women of Faith group a little bit about my experiences, and hear of theirs.

IBC booksigning      Book-signng outdoor sign

Part Four of Six Part Interview with Author Mary DeMuth on As We Forgive

March 23, 2009
By Catherine Larson

Today, part four of the six week interview with Mary DeMuth appeared on her blog, My Family Secrets. The discussion today centered around the eight stages of genocide and the similarities we see in the downward spiral in interpersonal relationships. Here's an excerpt:

1. On page 226, you describe the 8 stages of genocide. What are they?
The International Campaign to End Genocide has identified eight stages of genocide: (1) classification, (2) symbolization, (3) dehumanization, (4) organization, (5) polarization, (6) preparation, (7) extermination, and (8) denial.
Classification involves an us-versus-them mentality. In genocide, these categories develop along racial, ethnic, or religious lines. Such differences may be symbolized in the culture negatively. This may take the form of a literal symbol, such as in Nazi Germany where the Star of David was used to target Jews. Many times a symbol will also be dehumanizing, as in the use of the word “cockroaches” to describe Tutsi in Rwanda.  As the differences between groups are negatively characterized and classified, dehumanization increases as does further polarization between the groups.

2. How do some dysfunctional childhood families emulate some of those stages?
On a much less extreme scale, it is interesting to note the similarities between the downward spiral of genocide and what psychologist John Gottman has labeled the four most likely predictors of divorce: criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling. Differences are classified and verbalized with absolute statements such as “You never” or “You always.” Spouses become polarized. Contempt for the other solidifies.  Contempt—an intense feeling or attitude of regarding someone or something as inferior, base, or worthless—is only a step away from dehumanization. The result is that some spouses may stonewall or deaden their feelings toward each. They have closed out the other—a psychological exterminating of the other’s presence. Of course, severely dysfunction families may actually use physical violence as well.

It's interesting how physical or emotional abuse often follows similar patterns of separation and dehumanization before moving to more intense forms of physical or emotional harm. Seeing another person in light of our shared humanity, as another human made in the image of God, can alternatively enable us to treat the other with respect and dignity. For  the full interview, check here.

A Forgiveness as Old as St. Patty's Day

March 17, 2009
By Catherine Larson

Perhaps St. Patrick has a truth we need today. Patrick, the man behind St. Patty’s Day, grew up in an aristocratic family in Britain. But at sixteen, pirates invaded his hometown, captured, and sold him into slavery in Ireland. After six years of captivity, Patrick escaped, but the Irish never left his heart.

At forty-eight, Patrick, motivated by his Christian faith, returned to Ireland. There he spent the rest of his life returning grace to those who had formerly been his captors. The result? In his lifetime 700 churches were planted, and 1000 priests were ordained. So here’s a St. Patty’s Day question: are you a slave to your circumstances or are you taking every opportunity captive for good? When you open the door to forgiveness, there’s no telling how many doors may open to you.

As We Forgive: In Print, On Air, or In Person

March 17, 2009
By Catherine Larson

In the third addition of my six-part Q&A with author Mary DeMuth, I talk about fear conditioning, triggers and unforgiveness. Read part three of the ongoing interview here.

Also, today on The Point radio Mark Earley featured As We Forgive. You can listen to the audio of the short program here.

If you're in the Northern Virginia or Baltimore area, I hope you'll consider attending one of my upcoming events. On Saturday, March 21st, I'll be signing books at Borders Bookstore in Sterling. On Sunday, I'll be at Immanuel Bible Church. And on April 1st, I'll be speaking at a round-table with the Indego group. That Friday, April 3rd I'll be at Howard Community College. Check back to my events page for more details.

As We Forgive: The Journey Continues

March 12, 2009
By Catherine Larson

It's been an exciting week. I've been on the road (seven stops in seven days) and so it's been a bit of a challenge posting regularly. But I want to let you all know of some great coverage As We Forgive has received in recent weeks.

Yestereday on BreakPoint radio, Chuck Colson encouraged listeners across America to get a copy of As We Forgive. Crosswalk picked up the commentary also, so I'm sure there are a few new folks stopping by the website. Thanks for visiting!

On Monday, Jared Wilson interviewed me and reviewed the book over on his blog. Thanks for the great review, Jared, and for helping spread word of the needs in Rwanda today.

Also on Monday, part two of a six part Q&A series with author Mary DeMuth appeared on her blog Family Secrets.  You can read part one here and part two here, and I'll be linking more in the weeks to come. Her new novel Daisy Chain was released March 1 and is already getting excellent reviews.

What a joy it was this past week to connect personally with so many friends and new faces across Central Florida from Tampa to Orlando to up and down the East Coast. Sharing about restorative justice at the Synergy Conference and talking about forgiveness at Reformed Theological Seminary were two highlights of my trip.

Oh and did I mention that as of tonight, As We Forgive is listed as the number 3 most popular book on Africa on That's a nice way to round out a week that was equal parts exhausting and exhilirating!

The Englewood Review spotlights As We Forgive

February 28, 2009
By Catherine Larson

Laretta Benjamin at The Englewood Review has spotlighted As We Forgive in her latest commentary. Check out the review below, and the other interesting books highlighted at the Englewood Review here.

 FEATURED: AS WE FORGIVE by Catherine Larson [Vol. 2, #9]
“The Hope of Forgiveness“

A Review of
As We Forgive: Stories of Reconciliation From Rwanda.
by Catherine Claire Larson.

By Laretta Benjamin.

“Not only is another world possible, she is on her way.
On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”     – Arundhati Roy

“Through compassion we also sense the hope of forgiveness in our friend’s eyes and our hatred in their bitter mouths.  When they kill, we know we could have done it; when they give life, we know we could do the same.  For a compassionate man nothing human is alien.”           – Henri Nouwen

One of the most powerful kingdom-stories of our time is unfolding today in the small African country of Rwanda. Inspired by the documentary, “As We Forgive” –  produced by Laura Waters Hinson – Catherine Claire Larson built upon Laura Hinson’s research and has created a compelling book of the same name.  She gives us a powerful picture of what is taking place in Rwanda today, after the hellish events that took place there almost 15 years ago.

As many of us will remember, in April of 1994, a genocide of incredible proportions began in the small nation of Rwanda.  Over a period of 100 days, it is estimated that 800,000 to 1 million Rwandans were brutally murdered, approximately 300,000 of whom were children.  Neighbors killed neighbors and those once known as friends slaughtered each other.  In the opening pages of As We Forgive, the author lays out before us the key events that led to this human tragedy.  Her very helpful timeline traces events back as far as 1885 to the days of the European powers and their control of much of Africa.  The seeds of tension and division were being planted even then.

Ms. Larson writes with great truthfulness and emotion as she shares with us the events of the past few years in Rwanda’s little corner of the world.  This book’s story begins in 2003, when, because of prison overcrowding and with a desire to promote national reconciliation, the president of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, ordered that “elderly, sick and low-level killers and looters from the 1994 genocide who had confessed their crimes” be released from the prisons.  As of January 2008, an estimated 70,000 prisoners had been set free – back into the communities and neighborhoods where the atrocities were committed – to live side-by-side with the people they had sinned against.    “If they told you that a murderer was to be released into your neighborhood, how would you feel?  But what if this time, they weren’t just releasing one, but forty thousand” (16)?  For many of us this question might be just a philosophical one for casual discussion, but for Rwandans, it is real.  They are being called upon to face the reality of what happened among them 15 years ago and look into the faces of those responsible for that reality.  They are being asked to embrace forgiveness, healing and wholeness – God’s shalom. It is a picture of the kingdom of God coming, a compelling display of the way of the cross.  This story is a real life drama of “overcoming evil with good” that is being called “one of the most closely watched experiments in forgiveness in our world today.”  As We Forgive  gives us a wonderful glimpse of the unfolding story.

            First-hand accounts from those who survived the horrors of this genocide fill the pages of this book.  Their stories are chilling and haunting and their experiences are the stuff that nightmares are made of.   We might be tempted to think: “Survivors could not imagine living side by side with their torturers.”  Yet, that is exactly what is happening.  Words can’t begin to convey what all this means for many Rwandans… and what it should mean for us… but Catherine Larson makes an outstanding effort.

 “…this is part of the importance of understanding.  If Rwandans can find the courage to forgive, then perhaps there is hope for us in those problems that seem to pale in comparison and in those that echo the horrors of the genocide.  This is why I see a country known for radical brutality becoming, person by person, a place known for radical forgiveness. I want to understand.  While this process is far from complete, every instance is so beautiful so extraordinary, so beyond ordinary human capability, that it demands our attention and exploration. We in the West, just as Rwandans, desperately need to understand forgiveness.  We live in a violent world filled with conflicts.  Political polarization, terrorist attacks, racial tensions, immigration fears, and school shootings define our national landscape.  Meanwhile, privately, we struggle with broken marriages, splintered relationships, and doubts that pierce us to the core.  Could there be a common road map to reconciliation”  (19)?

             There are some questions for reflection and discussion sprinkled throughout the book which help to guide us in broadening this discussion – so this journey of forgiveness taking place in Rwanda can also become our journey.  It is not an impossible journey but neither is it an easy one, as we are able to see in the struggles of our Rwandan brothers and sisters on the pages of this book. “Looking at some of the monsters of the Rwandan genocide— men who sliced open the abdomens of pregnant women, who peeled the skin of their victim’s back with machetes, or who smashed the heads of babies against the walls of churches—the notion of forgiveness became nearly impossible for me to imagine.  How could anyone forgive such acts and such people” (88)?   “But this is not a path, or a book, for the faint of heart.  For the boy whose face bears the scars of a torturous gash, for the child who witnessed her family burned alive, for the daughter who cannot blot out the picture of her father’s blood-soaked face, forgiveness is one of the most excruciating journeys imaginable.  Its miles wind through chasms of pain and across solitary deserts of rage.  Yet, while it is perhaps the most difficult of all journeys, it is, nonetheless, a journey that is possible…scars can become the intersection of justice and mercy, stitched by forgiveness, the only thread strong enough to bind these wounds.  Through forgiveness, these scars cease to be emblems of vengeance, becoming instead evidence of supernatural hope.  This is the story that Rwanda can tell the world.  This is a story we need to understand.”    (20)
Ms. Larson shares very powerfully the other side of the story as well.  “But even as survivors were tormented with fears and questions, so also were many of the offenders themselves.  Saveri, one of those released from prison remembers his emotions:  “I was so overjoyed, but fear lingered also.  How was I going to face a survivor and squarely look her in the eyes after I wiped out her family?”  This thought stirred a deep fear in him.  Similarly, John, a man who had killed his neighbor, says:  “I had a mixture of fear when I learned I was going to be released from prison.  After a long time in prison it was hard for me to come back to the community that I had sinned against.  My biggest challenge was how I was going to meet Chantal, whose father I had killed.”  (17).

If you listen closely as you read this book, you can hear the sounds of another world being born in the midst of great labor pains in Rwanda.  This book is on my list as a must-read for all of God’s people for so many reasons.  For those of us in North American culture, our concern and awareness of so much of what has happened and is happening in our world today is, by our own choice, very limited.  I would imagine a large majority of us would have trouble giving even a general account of what happened in Rwanda in 1994 or sharing stories of what is happening in so many other places in our world today.   I think Ms. Larson’s writing helps to open our eyes to the incredible suffering that many have endured and continue to endure in this broken world.  May God open our minds and hearts to life beyond our borders.   Through these powerful stories from Rwanda, Ms. Larson gives us a wonderful glimpse into the ways God is working in so many places of this world.   We need desperately to overcome the arrogance that so many times pervades our thinking toward the rest of the world.  There is so much we can learn from them, as the stories of As We Forgive remind us.  Because of the “comfortableness” with which most of us in this culture live our lives, our understanding of much of the gospel and the teachings of Christ can be incredibly shallow.   The act of forgiving someone who butchered our family is beyond comprehension when we have trouble forgiving someone who cuts us off in traffic.  Ms. Larson’s insights into forgiveness are deeply moving.   How wonderful if we as God’s people in America and God’s people in Rwanda truly saw ourselves as brothers and sisters so that we share our struggles and our stories.  If one suffers, we all suffer.  If one experiences victory, we all experience victory.  Where were we when all hell was breaking loose in 1994?  Are there ways we can share in their story of forgiveness now?  Ms. Larson’s writings encourage us in that direction.  Thank you, Catherine Claire Larson, for opening your heart and life to what is happening in Rwanda and sharing this incredible story with us.

Novelist Calls As We Forgive Life-changing

February 23, 2009
By Catherine Larson

Novelist Mary DeMuth just posted a fantastic review of As We Forgive: Stories of Reconciliation from Rwanda  over at Relevant Blog. Check it out:

As We Forgive by Catherine Claire Larson is one of those life-changing books that will linger with you the rest of your life. It’s not for the fainthearted. It’s not for the hard-hearted or those bent toward stubborn unforgiveness. It’s primarily a story of hope.

During 100 days of 1994 800,000 people were brutally murdered in Rwanda—a genocide swifter in execution than Nazi gas chambers. Imagine Denver and Colorado Springs—every man, woman and child—suddenly gone from our population and you’ll appreciate the scope of the horror. (And go look on a map of Africa. Trace your finger due South of Uganda, due West of the Congo and you’ll appreciate how little this country is.)

As We Forgive shares the stories of genocide survivors, recounting the unspeakable. But it does not stop there. Larson pulls back the curtain of the most ostentatious acts of forgiveness I’ve witnessed, where genocide survivors choose to forgive those who perpetrated such violence.

Together, through reconciliation practices and restorative justice, they are rebuilding their country from the ruins of hatred—all on the back of the One who still bears the scars for our sins today.

I came away from this book changed, deeply moved, and inspired. Having seen the power of God to help people forgive the seeming unforgiveable, it gave me hope that my own wrestling with forgiveness would end in hope. I also appreciated that none of the forgiveness modeled was simple or easy or quickly won, nor does the book purport that reconciliation is merely forgiveness while forgetting. For true restoration to occur, the person perpetrating the atrocity must first fully own his/her own sin and grieve it as such. And for the person who was sinned against to heal, he/she must revisit the place of grief in order to heal.

All this dovetails beautifully into the message God’s been birthing in me—to help people who suffer silently to tell the truth about their pasts, to choose the difficult path of forgiveness, in order to heal.

If God can reach into a genocide victim’s heart and offer peace; if He can transform a murderer into a productive member of a reconciled society; then surely He can transform your pain today. That’s the patent hope this book gives. It’s a gift to all of us. And I pray it’s a gift all open.

DeMuth's latest novel, Daisy Chain hits stores in March. In it she explores the suffocating power of family secrets in a novel that some are comparing to To Kill a Mockingbird  and Peace Like a River. DeMuth's Family Secrets blog is seeking to help others who have struggled with a secret that has a death grip on their lives. Obviously there's a clear connection to the secrets which plague us and a need to forgive ourselves, others, or confess the guilt we carry.

As We Forgive on the Road

February 16, 2009
By Catherine Larson

Andy Crouch, author of Culture Making interviewed Emmanuel Katongole, the co-director of Duke’s Center for Reconciliation and me at last week’s National Pastors Convention in San Diego. Later that day, after a screening of the documentary film, As We Forgive, director Laura Waters Hinson and World Relief President, Don Golden joined Crouch, Katongole and me for another panel discussion.

Catherine with Andy Crouch and Emmanuel Katongole I really appreciated the deep questions Emmanuel Katongole raised during both interviews. He is a deep thinker and it is evident that raising the tough questions is part of his forte.

I read Katongole’s deeply engaging Mirror to the Church on the plane ride home. I highly recommend it. In it, he pushes the reader to face facts squarely and to realize that the reason that many Christians in Rwanda failed to protect their fellow man in the 1994 genocide was that the stories of their culture had a deeper grip on them the reality of their faith. Katongole raises this reality up like a mirror to the West. He asks us to consider what stories in the West have a deeper grip on us? Where in our experience, he asks, does the blood of tribalism run deeper than the waters of baptism? If you think of tribalism not in its common association, but in almost a metaphorical sense, you begin to see how profound his question is.

It was also a great pleasure to meet Andy Crouch. His encouragement concerning my book meant so much to me. He shared in front of the convention crowd that the book brought him to tears as he read it in Starbucks. And he shared with me privately how much he appreciated the artistry of the book. That was rich encouragement to someone who has labored long and hard in the crafting of this book. If you haven’t read, Andy’s Culture Making it is an absolute must-read. It recently won top honors in Christianity Today’s 2009 book awards, along with another book by Emmanuel Katongole and Chris Rice called Reconciling All Things.

Speaking of encouragement, my interview the week before last with New Testament professor Reggie Kidd over at Common Grounds Online certainly buoyed my spirits. Here’s just a snippet from that interview. Reggie Kidd writes, “When I pick up an ‘issues’ book, I don’t have high literary expectations for it. Because I know you and your love for words I wasn’t terribly surprised, but I was nonetheless delighted, at the lyrical hand you brought to this work. Page after page of my copy is marked with phrases I simply wanted to hold onto ...” You can read the rest of the interview here.

Earlier that week Tim McConnell also reviewed As We Forgive. He writes: “What struck me in reading was the fundamental truth that forgiveness is unnatural; forgiveness cannot naturally follow what these victims endured.  It is not natural for a girl who has been mauled, raped, and left for dead to grow to offer forgiveness to her terrorizers.  It is not natural for a boy who watched his father and family killed by neighbors he knew to turn to them with grace and favor.  Forgiveness is an intervention.  It is some sort of divine intervention that must enter from another plane of existence.” You can read the rest of this review here.

Interview with Washington Post's Loudoun Extra

February 04, 2009
By Catherine Larson

Here's an interview that ran yesterday in the Washington Post's Loudoun Extra about my journey to write As We Forgive.

Up Close: Catherine Larson

By Charity Corkey (Contact)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

In 2007, Ashburn resident Catherine Larson flew to Rwanda to interview survivors and perpetrators of the country's 1994 genocide. Inspired and intrigued by her friend Laura Watson's film documentary on the Rwandan's acts of forgiveness, Larson chose to explore several accounts more deeply.

The stories she heard are compiled in her book As We Forgive: Stories of Reconciliation from Rwanda, which was released early February.

In this e-mail interview, Larson, a writer for Prison Fellowship, talks about Devota - a woman who lost both children in the genocide - and the story of brave students in Nyange.

Q: Please tell us how you became interested in writing your book on Rwanda.

Continue reading "Interview with Washington Post's Loudoun Extra" »

Excerpt from As We Forgive

February 02, 2009
By Catherine Larson


Secrets of the Umuvumu's Scars

The gash across the face of Emmanuel Mahuro, a seventeen year-old Rwandan native, is no longer an open wound. Today, like a jagged boundary line on a map, a scar juts down the plateau of his forehead, across the bridge of his nose, and up the slope of his right cheek. It is impossible to look into Emmanuel’s eyes without seeing this deep cut, a mark of division etched across his face — and the face of Rwanda — fifteen years after the genocide.

My first reaction to such scars is to avert my eyes. But to look away from Emmanuel’s scars is to look away from him. Strangely, as my eyes adjust to Emmanuel’s face, there is an impulse, not to recoil, but to follow the line of the scar across his skin. Emmanuel’s scar testifies to two realities. It is a witness to the human capacity for evil. To look at it is to hear it scream the brutality of an April that aches in the memory of an entire people. Yet his scar testifies to another truth: the stunning capacity of humans to heal from the unthinkable. To trace that scar is to discover the hope of a people who, despite losing everything, are finding a way to forge a common future for Rwanda.

Rwanda’s wounds, like Emmanuel’s, are agonizingly deep. Today, they are being opened afresh as tens of thousands of killers are released from prison to return to the hills where they hunted down and killed former neighbors, friends, and classmates. In the everyday business of life — purchasing corrugated metal for roofing, burying bananas in the ground to make urwagwa, and hauling harvested sorghum to the market — survivors commonly meet the eyes of people who shattered their former lives. How can they live together? This is not a philosophical question, but a practical one that confronts Rwandans daily.

Continue reading "Excerpt from As We Forgive" »

As We Forgive Released Today!

February 01, 2009
By Catherine Larson

Today is the official release date of the book! It's a joy and relief to finally be to this point. In the next few days, I'll be posting some excerpts from the introduction and first chapter. But for tonight, I just want to say thanks to all the people who have helped make this book a reality; my family, friends, colleagues, church community, and the community at large. I also want to thank the people who had both the courage and the hope to share their stories with me. Their hope has given me hope. Their faith has challenged and stretched my faith.

If you're looking for the book, you can find it on Amazon, Borders, Barnes & Nobles, Books-A-Million, and several more. Once you've read it, I'd love to hear from you here on the blog at And I'd love for you to post a review on Amazon! Thanks so much. 

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.)