Survivor of Rwandan genocide to speak at Stoughton parish Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Thursday, Mar. 09, 2017 -- 12:00 AM
immaculee ilibagza
Immaculée Ilibagiza (CNS photo/ Victor Aleman, Archdiocese of Los Angeles)

Many have read the book by Immaculée Ilibagiza, Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust.

In Left to Tell, Immaculée shares her miraculous story of how she survived during the Rwanda genocide in 1994. She and seven other women huddled silently together in the cramped bathroom of a local pastor’s house for 91 days.

In this captivating and inspiring book, Immaculée shows how to embrace the power of prayer, forge a profound and lasting relationship with God, and discover the importance of forgiveness and the meaning of truly unconditional love and understanding -- through our darkest hours.

She will speak on Wednesday, March 15, at 6:45 p.m. at St. Ann Church in Stoughton. In her presentation, she will share her amazing story, focusing on the power of prayer, the importance of forgiveness, and the meaning of truly unconditional love. All are invited to attend this evening of inspiration, reflection, and growth in our faith.

Her life

Immaculée Ilibagiza was born and raised in a small village in Rwanda, Africa. She enjoyed a peaceful childhood with her loving parents and three brothers.

Education was very important in her household, so it was no surprise that she did well in school and went on to the National University of Rwanda to study electrical and mechanical engineering. It was while she was home from school on Easter break in 1994 that her life was transformed forever.

On April 6 of that year, the Rwandan president’s plane was shot down over the capital city of Kigali. This assassination of the Hutu president sparked months of massacres of Tutsi tribe members throughout the country. Not even rural communities like hers were spared from house-by-house slaughtering of men, women, and children.

To protect his only daughter from rape and murder, her father told her to run to a local pastor’s house for protection. The pastor quickly sheltered her and seven other women in a hidden three by four foot bathroom. For the next 91 days, she and the other women huddled silently in this small room, while the genocide raged outside the home and throughout the country.

Turned to prayer

While in hiding, anger and resentment were destroying her mind, body, and spirit. It was then that she turned to prayer. Prior to going to the pastor’s home, her father, a devout Catholic, gave her a set of Rosary beads. She began to pray the Rosary as a way of drowning out the anger inside her and the evil outside the house. It was that turning point towards God and away from hate that saved Immaculée.

In addition to finding faith, peace, and hope during those three months of hiding, Immaculée also taught herself English. She was already fluent in Kinyarwanda and French. Using only a Bible and a dictionary, she spent countless hours in that cramped bathroom learning her third language.

After the genocide

After 91 days, Immaculée was finally liberated from her hiding place only to face a horrific reality. She emerged from that small bathroom weighing just 65 pounds and finding her entire family brutally murdered, with the exception of one brother who was studying abroad. She also found nearly one million of her extended family, friends, neighbors, and fellow Rwandans massacred.

After the genocide, Immaculée came face-to-face with the man who killed her mother and one of her brothers. After enduring months of physical, mental, and spiritual suffering, Immaculée was still able to offer the unthinkable, telling the man, “I forgive you.”

Sharing her story

In 1998, Immaculée emigrated from Rwanda to the United States where she continued her work for peace through the United Nations. She shared her story with co-workers and friends who were so impacted by her testimony they insisted she write it down.

Three days after finishing her manuscript, she met best-selling author Dr. Wayne W. Dyer, who, within minutes of meeting her, offered to publish her book. Dyer is quoted as saying, “There is something much more than charisma at work here -- Immaculée not only writes and speaks about unconditional love and forgiveness, but she radiates it wherever she goes.”

Immaculée’s first book, Left to Tell; Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust (Hay House), was released in March of 2006. It quickly became a New York Times Best Seller. Her story has also been made into a documentary entitled The Diary of Immaculée.

Immaculée has written six additional books: Led by Faith: Rising from the Ashes of the Rwandan Genocide, Our Lady of Kibeho, If Only We Had Listened, Visit from Heaven, The Boy Who Met Jesus, and The Rosary.

Today, Immaculée is regarded as one of the world’s leading speakers on faith, hope, and forgiveness. She has shared this universal message with world leaders, school children, multinational corporations, churches, and at events and conferences around the world.

A major motion picture about her story is under production with an international release in theaters in 2018.

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