Love is a Weapon that Destroys All Evil

November 07, 2011
By Catherine Larson

If you happened to be on CNN's homepage today, you got a glimps of a photo essay by the very talented celebrity photographer Jeremy Cowart, who traveled to Rwanda this summer with filmmaker Laura Waters Hinson to photograph some of the faces of forgiveness and reconciliation. Among these faces, you will see John and Chantal, whose stories are told in both the film and in my book. I also spotted a few backdrops I recognized as well as a few other people who I interviewed for the book, but whose stories did not get included. You can check out the moving photo essay here and Jeremy's own thoughts on the radical power of forgiveness in this article also posted on CNN today.

Rid of My Disgrace

January 22, 2011
By Catherine Larson

When it comes to the topic of sexual assault, there’s a shortage of trustworthy material on the market, especially from a Christian perspective. That’s one reason I was so encouraged to hear that Justin Holcomb, a pastor and founder of Mosaic has released a new title on the subject. It’s called Rid of My Disgrace: Hope and Healing for Victims of Sexual Assault. I can’t think of someone whose experience could have more sensitively prepared him to deal with such a subject. I avidly followed Justin’s posts about his annual trips to minister and train pastors in Sudan. He and his wife Lindsey bring sensitivity and insight to a very difficult subject. Here’s what others are saying about the book.

Peace on Earth: A Cosmic Culmination

December 22, 2010
By Catherine Larson

Often when it comes to Christmas, our view of the meaning of it is about as small and chintzy as our miniature plastic nativity sets. But looking at the meaning of Christmas from a kingdom point of view enlarges not only our worldview, but also our hope. Christmas should give us a vision for a world where peace really does reign, for a world in which forgiveness and love have the final say, but where justice is also fully satisfied. That's because Christmas is about a kingdom reality, its about eternity breaking into time. In a very real sense it's D-Day. To read more, take a look at my recent piece with Chuck Colson in Christianity Today on the subject.

It Happened in Italy

January 28, 2010
By Catherine Larson

You are probably familiar with the film Schindler's List, but the name Giovanni Palatucci is one you've probably never heard. Read more about this amazing story in a recent BreakPoint that I researched and contributed to:

In evil times, the choice to defend life can come at a high price. But it is always worth paying.

In 2005, the United Nations designated January 27 as an annual day of commemoration for the victims of the Nazi regime. They chose the 27th because on this day in 1945, the Soviet army liberated Auschwitz. Most know the grim tales of what happened in Nazi death camps only too well—six million Jews killed, the gas chambers, the crematoriums, forced labor.

But while the horrors of concentration camps in Nazi Germany may be familiar, what happened to Jews in concentration camps at the same time in Mussolini’s Italy is not.

For Elizabeth Bettina, the story also would have been unknown had it not been for one intriguing photograph of her grandparents’ wedding in the early ‘40s in the tiny village of Campagna, Italy. There in the photo of her Catholic grandparents amidst a priest, some police officers, and other smiling wedding guests, stood an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi.

Bettina couldn’t stop wondering about it. How could it be that a rabbi would be standing near smiling people, including police officers, during World War II in Mussolini’s Italy? That photo launched her on a journey that would be life changing, which she recounts in her new book, It Happened in Italy.

Bettina soon learned that one of several Italian concentration camps was located in Campagna. But this concentration camp was so different to those of Nazi Germany that the resemblance stopped at the name.

In her book, Bettina interviews several survivors. They each say they were treated humanely in the Italian camps. They were well-fed and well-dressed. In Campagna, for instance, they were free to come and go, so long as they were present for roll call in the morning and in the evening when the doors of the camp closed.

When Italy surrendered to the Allies, the Germans acted quickly to deport Italian Jews to death camps in Germany. But many Italians rose up to protect the Jews from that horrible fate.

In fact, one man, an Italian police official, Giovanni Palatucci—known as the Italian Schindler—played a major role in saving thousands of Jews. When the Germans tried to deport the Jews in Italy, Palatucci hid the list of names from the Nazis. He supplied false documents to help many leave Italy, and others he hid with his uncle, a bishop.

When the Nazis figured out what Palatucci had done, they sent him to Dachau, where on February 10, 1945, he died the death he had saved so many Jews from. “Greater love hath no man than this...” Israel has acknowledged Palatucci as one the “Righteous among the Nations” for his deeds.

Bettina writes, “This story of goodness in a time of evil must be told.” She’s right. It Happened in Italy is a great reminder that the kind of evil we saw happen in Nazi Germany only happens when individuals participate, or choose to turn a blind eye.

What happened in Italy, however, reminds us that in evil times, those who serve the cause of life can write a different kind of story. If the phrase “Never again” is to be true, that’s a lesson each of us needs to learn and re-learn.

God's Tattoo Parlor

November 19, 2009
By Catherine Larson

When I first began researching for As We Forgive, I was simultaneously drawn to and repulsed by some photographs of Rwandan survivors whose bodies were marked by jagged machete scars.

As I wrote in the book, the scars came to symbolize for me both our incredible capacity for evil, and God’s amazing ability to heal unthinkably deep wounds. Scars came to represent to me a seam in the fabric of time. On the one hand, a scar will always symbolize the past—the wrongs, or wounds, or sufferings done to us. But on the other hand, they represent God’s ongoing miraculous healing in our present. The fact that they are no longer gaping wounds, but fused back into a new kind of wholeness is itself astonishing.

It forced me also to think about the scars of Jesus. Unlike the survivors I met in Rwanda, Jesus did not miraculously survive the wounds inflicted upon Him at the crucifixion. We know from God’s Word, and from the familiar words of our creed, that He died, was buried, and was resurrected. After the resurrection, He appeared to His disciples. And when Thomas famously doubted whether or not he was really seeing his Savior, Jesus told him to put his fingers into His scars.

For some reason, God, who had the power to heal every wound, to create things totally anew, left Jesus with the scars of His crucifixion in His resurrection body. This is a great mystery. I wonder if we will touch and see these scars when Christ comes again for us. If we ever get to hold the hand of Christ, I know these scars will speak to our souls of the depths and the riches of God’s gracious love toward us. (To continue reading, click here).