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From Murder to Forgiveness

From Murder to Forgiveness

Holly Bird speaks to Ray and Vi Donovan about their work in restorative justice and their new book Restored and Forgiven: The Power of Restorative Justice.

In 2001 Ray and Vi Donovan were awoken in the early hours of the morning to the horrific news that their two sons had been attacked by a gang while returning home that night. The couple discovered that one of their sons, Christopher, was fighting for his life. He later died from the injuries he sustained in the brutal attack.

After facing unimaginable devastation, Ray and Vi later met and forgave Chris’ killers. They now run The Chris Donovan Trust, founded in 2003, and are publishing their story in a book with Bridge Logos. 

What made you want to face your son's killers?

In 2003 we went on Trisha to talk about forgiveness and afterwards had a phone call from a church to say that one of our son’s killers had seen us on TV, was having nightmares and wanted to meet us. We felt that we needed to know that truth; why had that gang attacked our boys? We tried to arrange a meeting with him at that time but those dealing with the arrangement were not equipped for it. When we did finally meet him he walked over to us, held out his hands and simply said, “I’m sorry.” I just hugged him. It took us almost ten years to meet all three of them and forgive them face to face.

Could you tell us about your charity, The Chris Donovan Trust?

We were initially called Forgiveness Ministries, but one day I phoned a school and asked if we could come and speak there and they told us that we were “too Christian”. We realised they were right, and so we changed our name to The Chris Donovan  Trust. We go into schools, prisons, and government facilities to share our story and facilitate and encourage restorative justice. We focus on both one-to-one and group sessions for gang members. We have had brilliant success at helping people to leave gangs. We also run conferences on restorative practices.

How did you become involved in campaigning for restorative justice yourselves? 

Chris’ former RE teacher phoned us and asked if we had heard about something that prisons were now doing called Sycamore Tree. This was a six week course that introduced prisoners to victims and tried to teach them about the impact they had, the hope being that they would not reoffend. So we got involved and shared our perspective as victims with the prisoners. We realised then that they were human beings who needed help. This was our introduction to restorative justice.

How did you go about writing your book Restored and Forgiven? 

We had actually written the book several years ago. We simply wrote down the story of what happened to us and sent it to an agent. He thought it was brilliant and submitted it to a publisher; disappointingly it was rejected on the grounds that we were not well known enough for the story to have any commercial interest. So for the time being we did not pursue it any further. We did update the story of how we met the boys responsible for Chris’ death but did not at this point consider the possibility of a published book. However, there was one person in particular who was interested in our story and encouraged us to see if we could get the book published. He said he knew a publisher and that we should send the  manuscript to him. Both of us felt this was God’s perfect timing for the story to be told.

Can you tell us what the heart of the message is in Restored and Forgiven? 

It’s about giving people hope that forgiveness is possible. It is the way forward, and it brings great freedom. People told us that since we met the boys we seem changed, lighter in spirit. It is also a reminder that forgiveness is more than just words, it is an action; something you must choose to do.

Congratulations on being awarded an MBE for your services to restorative justice; what has been your response to receiving this award? 

We were so shocked. We thought ‘people like us don’t get MBEs!’ For us, we get an ‘MBE’ every time a man, woman or young person turns their life around. But it is a wonderful honour and we appreciate the recognition. More importantly it is acknowledgement of what God is doing to restore broken lives.

For more information on restorative justice and The Chris Donovan Trust please visit Ray and Vi’s website:


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Products mentioned in or related to this blog post
Restored And Forgiven (Paperback)
Donovan, Ray; Donovan, Vi
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