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Blog Tour: As We Forgive

by Dan Cruver Published May 4, 2009

as-we-forgive2As We Forgive is really a book about the collision of two life-changing historical events: the Rwandan genocide and the death of Jesus. The former brought Rwanda unspeakable violence and death. The latter continues to bring this same country, once devastated by genocide, breathtaking forgiveness and life. 

Catherine Claire Larson’s book As We Forgive: Stories of Reconciliation from Rwanda explores the Jesus-bought forgiveness and reconciliation that followed the release of 40,000 prisoners, many of whom had participated in the slaughtering of over 800,000 Rwandans. It is a remarkable and deeply moving book. As part of Catherine’s 100 Days of Hope blog tour, I have the privilege all week of focusing on this astounding story of forgiveness and reconciliation. Our focus this week will be on the children who became orphans of the genocide. We begin with part 1 of a two-part interview.

1.  Catherine, two of the seven stories that you share in As We Forgive are about children who became orphans of the genocide. I found these stories deeply moving. One of the things that struck me most was the horrific memories that these orphaned children carry with them and the intense internal battles that accompany those memories. Can you elaborate on that a little and also share how the gospel is bringing healing to many of these children?

catherine1First of all, Dan, thank you so much for having me on Together for Adoption, and for being willing to highlight the book this week.

In the book, I share two stories of Rwandan orphans. In the first story, Joy was very young—just four years old—when the genocide began. She has a few distinct memories: things like the sky streaked with fire as her home burned to the ground, huddling with her sisters in the tall grasses, and rattling in a truck under the cover of some potato sacks. The killing in her area of the country continued with raids even after the genocide officially came to an end, so she has memories of having to move from place to place and even of washing the blood from the walls in one abandoned home that they moved into. Joy lost her father, but her mother was spared. In Rwanda, like many other countries, if you lose your father, you’re still considered an orphan since the father is the primary provider. Joy has had a rough road, but she is a healthy, happy, beautiful girl today. A large part of that miracle is due to the opportunities she’s been given through the Sonrise School—a school begun by Christians in the Ruhengeri area. She has found Christ through this school and been given the opportunity of attending one of the best schools in the country without cost because of the generosity of a sponsor.

Another young man, whose story I share is Claude. Claude was 13 when the genocide began. He lost all of his extended family except for one sister. His memories are much more vivid. And his desire for revenge, afterward was that much stronger. Life is still really difficult for Claude, but through the work of a Christian ministry named Solace, he has found Christ and also had some schooling opportunities he wouldn’t have had otherwise. Today, Claude has extended forgiveness to some of those who have repented of their crimes against him, including one former neighbor who killed his grandmother.

2.  In the postlude you discuss the meaning of the names of many of the people whose stories you tell. I was particularly affected by the meaning of the orphan Claude’s name and the story of his experience with one of the killers named Innocent. You mention in your book that you were most deeply moved by Claude and his story of redemption. Would you share some of Claude’s story with Innocent and how God has used Claude’s experience in your own life?

Part of the reason, I was so deeply moved by Claude’s story was how God worked in His providence when we met him. Three friends traveled with me to interview when I was in Rwanda and we split up to cover more territory in the beginning of our time there. One of my friends had done an initial interview with Claude, and he had shared with her a willingness to take us to the area where he had survived and introduce us to Innocent, the man who had killed his grandmother, and with whom he had reconciled. I had been trying to meet up with Claude all week for a second interview, before we traveled to his village, but one thing after another kept preventing it. Finally, he was able to come over to the World Relief Guest House where we were staying. As it turned out, it was really too late that night to interview him, but our hosts, who knew Claude, had cooked dinner for all of us. It turned out that it was Claude’s birthday. As we sat around the table getting to know each other, we had such a sweet time of fellowship with this 26 year old young man. We hadn’t anticipated it being his birthday, so we went back to the kitchen and rounded up the only thing sweet we could find and put a few candles in it. We brought it out to him and sang, “Happy Birthday.” Claude began to weep. He told us that he hadn’t sat around a table to celebrate his birthday since he lost his family thirteen years ago. As we shared in this tender moment with him, our tears turned into joy as we decided to sing some praise songs together. I think that experience really bonded us.

When we did go to meet the man who killed some of his family members, I remember how astonished I was to learn that this man’s name was Innocent. Only later, did I look up Claude’s name. Claude is actually short for Jean Claude which is a combination of “Yahweh is Gracious” and “Weak”. It struck me how gracious our God is to the weak, and how powerful He is to make a man who was a former killer, truly innocent in His eyes, as He looks at him through the blood of Christ. We had a really moving encounter on a hill-top where Claude prayed over Innocent. For me, as I wrote in the book, it was a kind of transfiguration moment. What I mean by that is that I saw a glimpse of what it looks like for the brokenness of this world to be set right. There was a kind of glory in that glimpse of shalom that really did feel a little bit like what we pray when we say, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

3.  You write about two Rwandan groups that sought to help orphans of the genocide, Survivors Club and Solace. What was unique about the kind of help that the group Solace provided?

Well, according to Claude, the Survivors Club was a place where people simply went to vent their grief and their pain. And the experience seemed to only foment his rage as he heard other people’s experiences of horror. But the group called Solace, a Christ-centered group of widows and orphans, took it a step beyond simply sharing their grief. This group taught Claude how to pray and told him about Christ. Becoming involved with Solace, a group that became like a second family to him, was really the turning point for this young man who had been so full of vengeance.

As We Forgive Interview Part Two

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