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

Publishers Weekly Review

December 17, 2008
By Catherine Larson

Hot off the presses! Here's what Publishers Weekly has to say about As We Forgive: Stories of Reconciliation from Rwanda in the December 15th issue:

Rwanda-bloodied, scarred and nearly destroyed by the 1994 brutality of the Hutu genocide of Tutsis—is now called “an uncharted case study in forgiveness” by author Larson, who was inspired by the awards-winning film As We Forgive. Individual stories form prototypes: there is Rosaria, left for dead in a pile of bodies, who forgives her sister’s killer. And Chantal, whose family is brutally murdered yet who forgives her neighbor for the crimes. Devota, mutilated and left for dead, survives, forgives and eventually adopts several orphans. Each story is horrible and deeply personal as Larson mines the truths of forgiveness deep in each one’s tale. Helpful “interludes” offer readers hands-on ways to facilitate forgiveness and take the next step to reconciliation in their own lives. This isn’t an easy book to read or digest, yet its message is mandatory: “Forgiveness can push out the borders of what we believe is possible. Reconciliation can offer us a glimpse of the transfigured world to come.”

Peace on Earth? Goodwill to Men?

December 09, 2008
By Catherine Larson

I recorded CNN's "Scream Bloody Murder," a recently released documentary on genocide by reporter, Christiane Amanpour, and watched it last night. Here's a look at the film.

The documentary isn't easy to watch--but it's important. It chronicles parts of our recent history that we'd just as soon choose not to remember. The barbarism that humans are capable of is something few of us want to be reminded of. And yet as columnist, Tom Shales, of The Washington Post, writes in his review of the documentary, "Some may find the program tough to take at holiday time, but in fact it seems especially powerful during a season in which 'peace on Earth' and 'good will toward men' are being extolled from street corners." Its hard to comprehend the two notions together: peace on earth and genocide. Is peace possible after genocide? Is peace possible in a world where people brutally kill children, rape women, and do the unthinkable?

Continue reading "Peace on Earth? Goodwill to Men?" »

Book Buzz

December 09, 2008
By Catherine Larson

Here are a few of the endorsements, As We Forgive: Stories of Reconciliation from Rwanda has already received:

In compelling stories and thoughtful reflections, Catherine Claire Larson gives us glimpses of the powerful transformation taking place in Rwanda today. Reconciliation can indeed follow unspeakable evil; forgiveness is the key.
       Daniel W. Van Ness | Executive Director
       Centre for Justice and Reconciliation


Those who fear the breadth of America's left-right gap should see how radical forgiveness is healing Rwanda's far, far greater divide.  Catherine Claire Larson realistically reports both scars and grace.
       Marvin Olasky
       Editor-in-chief, World
       Provost, The KIng's College


Catherine Claire Larson is a bright, talented writer who has given us one of the most moving tales of reconciliation in one of the most difficult places in the world.  This is a book I can wholeheartedly endorse.  Read this.  It will strengthen your faith.
       Chuck Colson
       Founder, Prison Fellowship


I had trouble reading Catherine Claire Larson’s book—As We Forgive: Stories of Reconciliation from Rwanda, because of the lump in my throat and the flood of tears that made it difficult to focus. These stories of forgiveness in the wake of the Rwandan genocide are miracles of the highest order.  Catherine does not just tell the story but she does so with a deft literary touch that actually does justice to the extraordinary stories. Like me, the reader may find their vision blurred from tears, but please persevere and discover what true forgiveness really looks like.
       Frank A. James III
       President, Reformed Theological Seminary/Orlando


Ignore the doubters, skeptics, and experts about Rwanda and reconciliation after the 1994 genocide. Catherine Claire Larson has witnessed the same thing that I and a handful of other Westerners have, which is that everyday Rwandans who take the risk of biblical forgiveness soon experience new joy beyond human understanding. This book chronicles the miracle of forgiveness in a distinctive, evocative, and potent way.
       Tim Morgan
       Christianity Today


A painful and beautiful story.  I now see that sin is worse, and the cross of Christ greater, than I had ever imagined.  In fact, the cross is our only hope of resurrection.
       Kelly Monroe Kullburg
       Founder, Veritas Forum

Welcome

November 30, 2008
By Catherine Larson

Perhaps you’re here because you’ve heard about a strange trend in Rwanda of survivors forgiving the people who killed their family members.

Perhaps you’re here because you are researching Rwanda’s genocide and you’re curious to learn about what’s happening today in this small African nation.

Perhaps you’re here because you’ve already been a part of the support team that has helped make my journey, investigation, and now the book possible.

Or perhaps you’re here because you’ve heard about the forthcoming book, As We Forgive: Stories of Reconciliation from Rwanda, or the film that inspired the book and you want to know more.

However, you stumbled upon this site, I want to welcome you to the website/blog for the book As We Forgive: Stories of Reconciliation from Rwanda by Catherine Claire Larson. 

Explore the tabs to find out more about the book, about me, about upcoming speaking engagements, and about the film that inspired my journey to Rwanda. Click here to read the introduction as well as the first chapter of my book. Click here to pre-order your copy, to be released February 1st from Zondervan publishers.

And check back, in the coming weeks and months I hope to share thoughts here on all things relating to forgiveness, reconciliation, Rwanda, restorative justice and other themes that I’ve explored in the book. I’ll look forward to hearing your thoughts, questions, and hopefully encouragement along the way!