Monday, May 3, 2010

Spreading the Message of Kibeho

This weekend, I was blessed to be able to meet a woman named Immaculee Ilibagiza. Saturday night she spoke at the Paramount Theater in Austin. Immaculee is a survivor of the 1994 Rwanda genocide - when radicals from the Hutu Tribe attempted to purge the country of the Tutsi. Over 800,000 people were hunted down and slaughtered in the span of 100 days. That is more than six men, women and children murdered every minute of every hour of every day for more than three months. Immaculee is only one of 300,000-400,000 survivors of the genocide. She lost her parents, two of her three brothers and many other relatives in the racial cleansing.

So how did Immaculee survive? Her father, a devout Catholic man known for his kindness, gave her his rosary and sent her to another village to hide at the house of a friend. Although he was a minister, He was Hutu. But her father assured Immaculee that this man would never kill anyone and that he would provide a safe haven for her. Immaculee obeyed her father and for the next 91 days, she would live in a tiny bathroom with 6 other women and a 7-year-old girl sharing what scraps of food the minister was able to sneak for them. They had to wear the same clothes, could not bathe, and could only flush the toilet when they heard the toilet flush in the adjoining bathroom. At the end of her ordeal, Immaculee was physically very weak and she weighed 65 lb. But spiritually, this woman became a giant.

Instead of complaining and asking God why the slaughter of her people was taking place, Immaculee asked God to assure her of His love as she prayed her rosary over and over again. She also asked the pastor who was hiding them for a Bible. She had a heartfelt desire for a renewed faith in God.
"I was reading the Bible for guidance, to know the truth. Now I want to know step-by-step what do You want me to do. I want to read line-by-line. If You say, ‘trust’, I want to try it. If You want to tell me ‘love them’, let me try it.”
Immaculee was certainly fed by the word of God. For some time, she concentrated on Matthew 17:20 - "... truly, I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you." It was through prayer and meditating on scripture that Immaculee was able to let go of the anger and hatred toward those who were involved in the Rwandan holocaust and forgive them. 

After moving to the United States, Immaculee felt called to write about her experiences during the genocide. She met Wayne Dyer at a book signing and he asked to publish her story. Her first book, Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust, was a New York Times best seller in March 2006. In December of that same year, 60 Minutes broadcast her story to the world.

Watch CBS News Videos Online
60 Minutes Interview - 2006

But there is so much more to her experience than could be written in one book. Immaculee now has four books and a number of CDs. Led By Faith: Rising from the Ashes of the Rwandan Genocide continues her story after Left to Tell. Our Lady of Kibeho: Mary Speaks to the World from the Heart of Africa is about Mary's apparitions in Kibeho in Rwanda from 1981-1983 in which she warned the people of Rwanda that the genocide would happen unless they changed their hearts. She wrote a fourth book called  If Only We Had Listened that contains Our Lady's messages.

Diary of Immaculee

Immaculee now travels about the world speaking of her experiences. God is also using her to spread the messages of Our Lady of Kibeho. The apparitions to the original three seers were approved by the Vatican in 2001 and there currently are plans to build a huge basilica there where pilgrims can gather to pray.

I must say that I was deeply moved by Immaculee's sharing of her story at the Paramount Theater on Saturday. Although I had read  Left to Tell, I was not prepared to see the model of the tiny bathroom where she hid. I could scarcely imagine 8 people living in that 3'x4' space for 91 days. It brought me to tears.

Immacculee signing her books at St. John Neumann

Last night's event was at St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Southwest Austin. Immaculee primarily concentrated on the apparitions of Our Lady of Kibeho and how they impacted her faith before the genocide ever took place. It was a joy to hear this beautiful, Spirit filled woman share more of her story and her love for God and Our Lady. It is for this that she survived the genocide - to spread the message of faith, hope and forgiveness through love. It is a story that certainly illustrates that God writes straight with crooked lines. Truly, "Nothing is impossible for God." I have faith that one day, I will make a pilgrimage to Kibeho with Immaculee.

2010 - The House of Immaculee's father is rebuilt
and turned into a house of healing

2007 - Al Jazeera interview with Immaculee

2009 - CBS interview with Immaculee

No comments:

Post a Comment