Book Review: As We Forgive
Aug 20, 2009
“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?”
-A survivor of the Rwandan genocide
As We Forgive: Stories of Reconciliation from Rwanda, Catherine Claire Larson's new book, addresses this and other questions raised by the recent release of fifty thousand men and women who took part in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Thanks to the work of several restorative justice ministries and other groups, a growing number of Rwandans have begun to heal and have sometimes even been reconciled with those who murdered their friends and family. Larson intersperses the stories of several of these survivors with thoughtful reflections on healing and forgiveness. Included discussion questions make As We Forgive a good choice for small group use.
Although Larson doesn’t flinch in her descriptions of the horrors of the genocide, her book is positive and surprisingly practical. Most people, when faced with stories of genocide, tend to back away, ashamed of their own meager struggles and certain that such extreme suffering can have no bearing on their lives. Larson instead tries to learn from the suffering she describes:
“If Rwandans can find the courage to forgive, then perhaps there is hope for us in those problems that seem to pale in comparison…If forgiveness is possible after genocide, then perhaps there is hope for the comparably smaller rifts that plague our relationships, our communities, and our nation.” (p. 19)
The restoration work being done in Rwanda relies on a philosophy of reconciliation with which many will be unfamiliar, and which would help offset a number of the disadvantages of our current justice system here in the US. Peace, explains Larson, is a much deeper concept than the ubiquitous graphic might imply. While we usually use the word to refer to an absence of conflict, the term originally meant something much more holistic.
Larson's book was inspired by a documentary of the same name produced by Lauren Waters Hingson.