Author Archive: directorifi

Award-Winning Musician Practices Forgiveness–Even for His Father’s Killer

The Christian Science Monitor, Boston, MA – Over a 100-day period beginning on April 6, 1994, nearly 1 million Rwandan Tutsis lost their lives at the hands of their fellow Rwandans, the Hutus. Prior to the outbreak of that genocide, Jean Paul Samputu, Rwanda Mapa Tutsi and at the time a rising star on the East African music scene, spent six months in jail, along with thousands of other Tutsis who had been arrested at their homes.

When he was released from jail, his father urged him to flee the country. While Jean Paul escaped to neighboring Burundi and Uganda, the elder Samputu stayed behind in his village. In the nightmare of genocidal rage that followed, Jean Paul lost his father, mother, three brothers, and a sister.

Struggling with grief, anger, and desperation, Samputu slid into drinking and drugs, causing his career, his health, and his private life to spiral downward.

In 2003, Samputu found himself on Prayer Mountain, a real place in Uganda. There, he says, God showed him that he needed to forgive. “That’s when I said yes to God. I can forgive,” Samputu recalls. “I got a great peace in my heart.” He also vowed that he would take his message of forgiveness all over the world.

Returning to his native village, Samputu found and forgave the former neighbor who had killed his father. Despite the irrationality of it all, the two men worked together over the next few years to bring their message of forgiveness to all of Rwanda.

“Forgiveness is for you, not the offender. Forgiveness is the only thing that can stop the cycle of violence, the culture of revenge,” Samputu says. “If we don’t want another genocide, our children must learn this message.”

Samputu also returned to his music and his career took off. He won the Kora Award (the African Grammy) for Most Promising African Male Artist. Three years later, in 2006, he won First Place for World Music in the International Songwriting Competition. And in 2007, he was recognized as an “ambassador of peace” by the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace.

Today, Samputu, who sings in six languages, has established himself as one of the most prominent African artists on the world stage. He is an international ambassador for peace, speaking at the UN and at universities throughout Japan, Canada, Mizerothe US, and Germany. His nonprofit group, The Mizero Foundation, focuses on teaching gender equality and the empowerment of women.

He also formed a music and dance group called Mizero Children of Rwanda. These 15 children, all orphaned by the genocide, traveled with him throughout Africa, Canada, and the United States, singing, dancing, and delivering a message of forgiveness.

Read the full story: “Jean Paul Samputu practices forgiveness even for his father’s killer.”

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From A Story of Evil, A Lesson In Forgiveness

Beverly Donofrio is known for her best-selling memoir “Riding in Cars with Boys,” where she wrote about her experience as a teen mom. That book was made into a film starring Drew Barrymore in 2001. Riding in cars with boys 2

She followed up with “Looking for Mary,” a memoir about her spiritual life. But just as she was taking the next step in her spiritual life, planning to join a monastery in Mexico, she was raped at knife point in her own home. But instead of succumbing to fear and shame, she fought back in her own way. Now she shares that story and her journey of healing through forgiveness in a new book called “Astonished: A Story of Evil, Blessings, Grace, and Solace.”

During an interview on NPR, Donofrio explained how she survived the rape by praying out loud the Hail Mary in Spanish:

Beverly Donofrio 2

Beverly Donofrio

“And he (the attacker) said, you’re praying, stop praying. And I said, I’m praying for you, which was a lie, and then I thought, well, it should be the truth. So then I said a Hail Mary interiorly, praying for him, that he see what he was doing, the wrong in it, and heal from whatever was making him do it. And then the next Hail Mary, I’m praying, please, Jesus, God, Mary, every angel, saint, dead relative, get this man out of my house.”

Surprisingly, the man backed off the bed and left.

The next day, Donofrio wrote an article for the local newspaper detailing her experience and offering advice for other women who might become victims of rape. Five days after the story ran in the newspaper, the man who attacked her was captured. He was the serial rapist who had been attacking women in the town for eight months, severely beating two of the women who had fought back.

Asked how she began the healing process. Donofrio said, “Well, you know, when you can’t forgive – and I couldn’t for a long time – it hurts you. It doesn’t hurt the person or anyone else. It’s you that it’s hurting, keeping negative, angry feelings alive. I mean, I couldn’t help those feelings. I was angry, but I did have the will. I knew that I wanted to forgive because I wanted to just let it go and get on. It took probably four years before this happened. And I do feel healed.”

Read more of the NPR interview, “From A Story of Evil, A Lesson In Forgiveness.” Her book is available at

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Man Forgives Grandmother’s Killer Then Works to Eliminate Death Penalty

Post-Tribune, Gary, IN – Bill Pelke’s grandmother was brutally murdered during a 1985 break-in at her home by Paula Cooper and three of her classmates from Lew Wallace High School. Cooper, 15 at the time, was the apparent leader in the booze and marijuana fueled attack that left the 78-year-old grandmother slashed and stabbed 33 times. For her role in the crime, Cooper was sentenced to death.

Killing People Quote“When it first happened, it was so painful I couldn’t stand to think about it,” Pelke said. But about 18 months after his grandmother’s murder, as he was sitting in the crane he operated at the former Bethlehem Steel, Pelke came to the realization he had to let the hatred go.

“I no longer pictured how she died but how she lived. When I did, something tremendous happened,” Pelke said as he talked about forgiving Cooper. “Forgiveness should be a habit. It should be a way of life.”

Following that catharsis, Pelke spent the better part of the next 25 years advocating to save Cooper’s life and trying to eradicate the death penalty altogether. Pelke’s and Cooper’s story quickly gained international attention and fueled a petition bearing more than 2 million signatures demanding Cooper’s life be spared.

“I’ve probably told my story 5,000 to 6,000 times,” Pelke said. “I’m convinced I’m doing the right thing.”

Ultimately, Cooper’s death sentence was commuted to 60 years in prison when the Supreme Court ruled it was illegal to execute anyone under the age of 18. That sentence was eventually reduced by about half for good time and education credit and she was released last month.

Pelke, who visited her 15 times while she was incarcerated, looks forward to seeing her even though he now lives in Alaska.

“I want to welcome her back to society, the free world. I want to reinforce: I will do whatever I can do to help her get a job. To me, it is very important she is successful,” Pelke said.

Read the full story: “Victim’s grandson finds forgiveness in wake of brutal Gary slaying”

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After 13 Years of Living Hell. . . Forgiveness

891 ABC News, Adelaide, Australia – Imagine being locked in prison, being beaten daily and suffering in inhumane conditions in a cell with 49 other people. Imagine coming out of this living hell after 13 years, being diagnosed with cancer but having found forgiveness, happiness, and even peace.

Reon Schutte, a former South African elite Special Forces solider, was captured in 1992 and imprisoned in the notoriously brutal Chikurubi prison in Zimbabwe. To give you an idea of how bad that prison is, in 2009 there were 1300 inmates and 700 of them died while imprisoned there! Schutte was pardoned and released in 2004, and has since shared his incredible story of survival to more than one million people around the world through speaking engagements and his book, “Set Yourself Free.”

While incarcerated, Schutte subsisted on a half cup of rice and cabbage leaves a day, endured inhumane conditions and daily beatings and learned forgiveness, tolerance, acceptance of circumstances and the ability to reprogram his mind for ultimate freedom. The key, Schutte says, is choice, “a powerful tool to which every human has access at every moment and that is our ticket to freedom, regardless of the situation. We may not be able to choose our circumstances, but we can always choose how we respond.”

When Schutte shares his life journey with audiences, he holds listeners spellbound with his incredible story of survival and overcoming inconceivable odds. At the same time, he inspires his audience members to break out of the “personal prisons” they have created for themselves through fear, hate, anger, blame, lack of forgiveness, self-doubt and attachment to material possessions or status. In his book, Set Yourself Free, Schutte shares 10 Principles–lessons he learned the very hard way–and provides simple exercises to immediately put the Principles into practice.

The 10 Principles to Break Out of Your Personal Prison

  1. Forgive. Not as a favor to others or because you’re holy, but to set yourself free. As long as you hate or hold a grudge against someone, you are their prisoner. They are in control of your life and you’ve given them that power. They may be long gone, have forgotten about you, or even be dead, but if they can still make you think of them in anger, you are their prisoner. Forgive and set yourself free.
  2. Be a victor, not a victim
  3. Failure only exists when YOU choose to give up
  4. Accept Your Circumstances
  5. Choose your response
  6. Lead by Example
  7. Serve others
  8. Understand There is no “There”
  9. Don’t ask “Why”‘ but ask “What for?”
  10. The Power of Choice Resides in Each of Us

Read the full story: “The Power of Choice – Reon Schutte”

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Polish, Ukrainian Church Leaders Pledge Mutual Forgiveness

Catholic News Service, Warsaw, Poland – Catholic leaders in Poland and Ukraine last week pledged mutual forgiveness for the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians during World War II.

Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych (head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church) and Archbishop Jozef Michalik of Przemysl (president of the Polish bishops’ conference) asked forgiveness and also appealed to all Ukrainians and Poles in the world “to open their hearts and minds bravely to mutual forgiveness and reconciliation.”

“Neither violence nor ethnic cleansing can ever be a method of solving conflicts between neighboring peoples or nations, or justified on political, economic or religious grounds,” said the church leaders’ joint statement, published June 28 in Warsaw.

The statement was timed to commemorate the 1943-44 massacres in Volhynia and eastern Galicia, in which up to 100,000 Poles and Ukrainians were killed by rival sides under Nazi occupation.

Around 80,000 Poles were murdered in 1943-44 by fighters with the Ukrainian Insurgent Army in an ethnic cleansing campaign to clear non-Ukrainians from what would become Ukraine.

Dozens of Catholic priests were killed and churches burned during the atrocities, which peaked in July and August 1943. Polish self-defense groups in various regions retaliated with the murder of up to 30,000 Ukrainians.

Read the full story: Polish, Ukrainian church leaders mark anniversary of WWII massacres.

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