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Published Saturday, July 7, 2007

Day of Forgiveness to bring message of life and peace

For one local ministry, Saturday marks the "World Day of Forgiveness," a day dedicated to local reconciliation and global peace.

Saturday is July 7, 2007, or 7-7-7, which holds meaning in Christian religious symbology. And Father Vazken Movsesian, executive director of Glendale-based In His Shoes Ministries, has taken it upon himself to dedicate the day to forgiveness, a concept he believes is much needed in the world.

In the Bible, when asked how often a person should forgive, Jesus Christ said to forgive seven times 77 times a reference to the number 777.

"[Movsesian] deemed it a world day of forgiveness and a day of togetherness," said In His Shoes event coordinator Anita Issagholyan. "He's got a lot of great people on board."

The event began on Friday with a screening of the new documentary film, "Sand and Sorrow," which describes the genocide in Darfur. The film is narrated by George Clooney and will be followed by a discussion.

"This is an opportunity to center on forgiveness," said Movsesian, who is also a priest at St. Peter's Armenian Church in Glendale. "As Armenian Christians we will talk about what we do best having a message of forgiveness that gives us life."

The event, which has been two years in the making, will include a focus on recovery from genocide.

Movsesian's drive to put on the event was further fueled by a recent trip to Rwanda another victim of genocide.

"I went to Rwanda last year and had an opportunity to go and see life after a genocide," he said. "I saw some great people who really put forgiveness to the test; these are people we're going to be meeting at the conference."

Among those Movsesian met was Benjamin Kayumba, who lived through the genocide and who was able to forgive those who perpetrated crimes against him. He will be honored as Person of the Year Saturday.

Another guest Saturday will be Leticia Aguirre, whose son, Raul, was killed in Glendale in 2000 while trying to stop a gang fight. She later forgave the killer during his court trial, Movsesian said.

The event will also feature various demonstrations of forgiveness through art and music.

"[Movsesian] is exploring forgiveness through a lot of different ways," Issagholyan said. "There are a lot of deep and important issues that we're trying to present."

Saturday's event will begin at 9 a.m. and continue till 3 p.m. Both events take place at All Saints Church in Pasadena.

"I think it's such a powerful thing; we always talk about wars and we talk about solving problems with violence, but this is a great way to use the example that Christ gave us and to forgive," said Anush Avejic, an In His Shoes board member.

The ultimate purpose is to show people a different way of responding to those who have wronged them besides anger, Movsesian said.

"It's a chance to look at people who have made a difference," Movsesian said, "people who have tried to forgive and how it has affected them. Our whole idea is to spread love and really bring a lasting peace."

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All Content Copyright 2005 Fr. Vazken Movsesian and In His Shoes, Intnl.