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As We Forgive: Stories of Reconciliation from Rwanda Paperback – February 10, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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 award-winning film As We Forgive. Individual stories form prototypes: there is Rosaria, left for dead in a pile of bodies, who forgives her sisters 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 ones tale. Helpful interludes offer readers hands-on ways to facilitate forgiveness and take the next step to reconciliation in their own lives. This isnt 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. (Feb.)
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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
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 284 pages
  • Publisher: Zondervan (February 10, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0310287308
  • ISBN-13: 978-0310287308
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #367,156 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

After graduating with a Master's degree in Biblical Studies, Catherine Claire Larson spent seven years writing with Chuck Colson for BreakPoint radio, Christianity Today, and Newsweek online. Today, she writes amidst the clatter and curiosity of three young children. To find out more, visit:

Customer Reviews

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As We Forgive by Catherine Claire Larson is one of those life-changing books that will linger with you the rest of your life.
Mary E. DeMuth
The people in these stories came from different areas and had different experiences, giving the reader a good idea of what happened during the genocide and afterward.
By telling personal stories in an engaging writing style, Larson does a fine job of taking the reader from the abstract to the very real and personal.
Jason G

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Timothy McConnell on February 3, 2009
Format: Paperback

Inspired by and building upon the two documentaries As We Forgive (Laura Waters Hinson) and We Are All Rwandans (Debs Gardner-Patterson), Catherine Claire Larson explores the dark hours of the Rwandan genocide of 1994 in even greater depth and power by retelling not only the harrowing stories of survival, but the miraculous accounts of forgiveness. The stories she recounts are heart-wrenching, stomach-turning experiences of the absolute worst of human sinfulness matched only by the awe-inspiring moments of forgiveness made possible through the grace of God in Christ.

The effect of this book is to put one's own life in new perspective. When the stories of terror are met with the miracles of forgiveness, one's own experiences of grief, trial and guilt pale in comparison. This is not only a book for those interested in the horror of the Rwandan genocide and afterward; this is a book for anyone who has ever been wronged or has ever wronged another.

Larson leads the reader through seven different accounts of personal experiences. It is difficult to find words to sum these experiences up, except to say that the reader is asked to share with the victims in the horrors of rape, dismemberment, burnings and abandonments. Relatives are killed in the sight of loved ones, fathers in the plain view of their children. Even clergy and officials participate in mass killings of Tutsi people, who they have categorized as "cockroaches." The absolute worst in human nature is on display here. With each story of horror and survival, an accompanying miracle emerges: forgiveness.

What struck me in reading was the fundamental truth that forgiveness is unnatural; forgiveness cannot naturally follow what these victims endured.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By K. Steakley on February 25, 2009
Format: Paperback
Catherine has taken a brave journey that few of us would wish to take, but that all of us will be the better for joining her on--a journey into the evil and terror of genocide...and back out again, on the other side, into the grace and unfathomable hope of forgiveness. Writing beautifully with the heart of a storyteller, Catherine introduces us to genocide survivors and perpetrators, ordinary men and women, boys and girls whose lives were never the same after the awful events that took place during 100 days in 1994. The stories are heartbreakingly, unutterably sad. How could neighbors wield machetes against their neighbors, their friends, children? And yet, as Catherine shows us, the madness that consumed the nation of Rwanda is the same madness that invades our own hearts when we hold a grudge, turn a back on a friend, curse that driver in front of us. The small petty grievances that we allow to pile up day after day have the same root as the unspeakable, unthinkable horror of a national genocide.

This book is not easy to read, but it is necessary to read. We all need to know that we are forgiven and that we are capable of forgiving even the most heinous and outrageous of offenses. The awful history of Rwanda can teach us all the profound truth of our own guilt and the almost unbearable grace of forgiveness.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By G. Lucke on February 3, 2009
Format: Paperback
The prospect of reading Catherine Claire Larson's As We Forgive both repelled me and attracted me. I've got little stomach for stories of humans torturing, maiming and killing others; I want to look away. Yet the title told me that something uncommon had happened-- that victims had forgiven their brutalizers.

Larson does tell the stories of suffering in detail. Her friendship with victims and knowledge of their stories, narrated in vivid prose, is heart-breaking. Rwandans did vicious, awful things to one another. Larson does not look away.

What was so surprising, after learning of the brutality in detail, is how Larson's subjects slowly came to forgive their enemies. It's hard to believe. I think of the slights and shuns and petty avengement in my docile suburban world, and how friends will say, "I'm not speaking to him," and it all seems so silly when those who were repeatedly tormented and had their loved ones slain can forgive ultimate horror.

Larson provoked me to think about my relationships at a deeper level, but also how collectives and institutions might also contemplate forgiveness of wrongs done to them.

Through it all Larson writes with verve and wisdom that makes for enlivened reading, and she points to a depth and richness of HOPE that I've rarely experienced. This is a great book.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Mary E. DeMuth on February 21, 2009
Format: Paperback
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.
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