“The Hope of Forgiveness“
A Review of
As We Forgive: Stories of Reconciliation From Rwanda.
by Catherine Claire Larson.
By Laretta Benjamin.
As We Forgive:
Stories of Reconciliation From Rwanda.
Catherine Claire Larson.
Paperback: Zondervan, 2009.
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“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.