Imagine spending three months living in a three foot by four foot bathroom with six other women and being scared to death every minute. Immaculee LLibagiza did just that. What terror would be that horrifying to motivate her and those other women to flee their homes and rush to a stranger's home to live in conditions like that and for such a long time? The answer is a numbing, total fear that you are about to be killed. In April of 1994, tensions between the Tutsis and the Hutus, tribes of the East African nation of Rwanda, boiled over into horrific violence. In just 100 days of genocidal butchery, 800,000 Tutsis along with many moderate Hutus were massacred by government supported Hutu warriors. Tribal territorial claims, in this most densely populated nation in Africa, have been threatening to provoke problems for some time. Finally, a political assassination and overcrowding pushed this nation over the edge. The slaughter was up-close and personal. Neighbors who had been friends turned on each other with guns and machetes. Entire families, whole villages of people were hacked to death. From this blood lust, Immaculle fled. The home of a minister became a not-so-safe haven for Immaculee and six other refugees. More than once, Hutu men had searched the home for the hidden women, but miraculously they were not discovered. When the genocide subsided, Immaculee, fifty pounds lighter, emerged with the other women from the house. She discovered that many family members had been killed. But she was alive, even at only sixty-five pounds, and she would go on to live and to thrive. I suggest that you go to her web site, www.immaculee.com/ to learn her complete story.
An essential factor in Immaculee,s survival was prayer – specifically, the Rosary. Rwanda is predominantly a Catholic country. As a matter of fact, the genocide was believed to have been predicted by Our Lady of Kibeho. An apparition of Our Lady said to have taken place in the South-western Rwandan town of Kibeho in 1981. She delivered thousands of messages including a prediction of an event of great violence among the people.
Nearly two decades have passed since the genocide and Rwanda is a country showing promise, but having difficulties also. On one hand, Rwanda with its booming economy and increased educational opportunities is said to be on the verge of becoming, in the view of the government, the "Singapore of Africa." On the other, the book, Stuck, Rwandan Youth and the Struggle for Adulthood by Marc Sommers speaks of the young people of Rwanda, three-quarters of the population is under thirty, are by forced into crowded cities to look for employment because of government land programs that limit their opportunity to have a home and marry back in the villages. Rwanda is facing great opportunities and dangerous challenges.
In 1998, Immaculee came to America. She became a voice for the Rwandan people, and her own story. Forgiveness was a necessary element to her recovery as a person. She met the man who was responsible for the deaths of a number of her family members. She knew that she had to forgive him. He himself confessed to the murders and the almost robotic quality of the act. He was a family friend and held no ill-feelings toward Immaculee's family. There was an intense and coercive push by the Hutu and the government to perform the killings. One can recall the lessons of history in which humans lost their humanity and drove nations to war. Or, more unsettling, perhaps there are aspects of being human that ought to terrify us all. If only the truth of faith as taught and lived by Jesus Christ may live in more human hearts and guide more human minds, then these atrocities would cease. As a sign of this revelation, Immaculee, under the impetus of Dr. Dwane W. Dyer, wrote the first of many books about her experiences. Her first work is entitled, Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holcaust. She has gone on to become a renowned speaker in the cause of peace, faith, and forgiveness. She has been accorded countless awards and laudatory commentaries.
Forgiveness is the answer to the child's dream of a miracle by which what is broken is made whole again, what is soiled is made clean again.
Immaculee is a Catholic woman on a mission to spread the power of prayer, the devotion to Our Lady of Kibeho, and hope for the future. She is an incredible woman who has an amazing story to tell. The common and simple prayer we call the Rosary is, in its simplicity, a truly profound source of comfort, healing, and assurance even in the face of the most horrible of tragedies. Just ask Immaculee.