Written by Carmel Malerba
Immaculee Ilibagiza knows what it is like
to rely on the power of prayer.
With nothing other than rosary beads and
prayer to sustain her, she survived
the 1994 Rwandan genocide by hiding in
a small bathroom with seven other women
for 91 days.
She lived through the systematic slaughter,
when an estimated 800,000 people — including
most members of her family — were
brutally murdered in the central African nation.
She will speak at two parishes in the Diocese
of Camden next month.
No tickets are left for her appearance
at Assumption Parish, Atco, on
Tuesday, Nov. 10, and they are going
fast for her talk at St. Andrew
the Apostle Parish, Gibbsboro, on Monday, Nov. 16.
Ilibagiza's survival account is chronicled
in her book, "Left to Tell: Discovering God
Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust."
Ilibagiza, raised in a devout Catholic family
and a member of the Tutsi ethnic
group of Rwanda, was a college student
when the genocide began.
Amid the atrocity she embarked on
an inward, spiritual journey clinging
to her father's rosary beads that
he gave her just before she went into hiding.
But the soul-searching was not easy
she told an audience at the campus
of Dominican-run Caldwell College in 2007.
"I had a fight within my heart," she said.
"I had to find my strength.
The killers were outside my door.
How do you forgive killers?
There were days that
I was sweating because of my anger.
"I thought to myself: 'This is what it
feels like to hate.'
I started to say the rosary and
felt the love of God.
I forgave the killers and I started
to pray for them.
I know it's wrong what they did,
but in my heart I wish them
to change and find the truth," she said.
When order was re-established in Rwanda
in July 1994, Ilibagiza emerged from
three months of seclusion looking like a skeleton.
She regained her health and found
employment with a local United Nations
She later married and today has
One of her brothers also survived
the genocide and today he is a doctor in Senegal.
"Prayer is the practice of love," she said.
"It can change the world.
It sounds so simple, but it is true.
Hold onto hope and find peace
in your heart.
Put your trust in God."
Contributing to this story
was Catholic News Service.
Sent from Kigali, Rwanda