Immaculee Ilibagiza was a college student in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide in which nearly one million people died. Her story is a remarkable testimony to the power of God’s grace to strengthen us during times of trial and to live the teaching of the Gospel in the face of overwhelming evil. Her story is told in the novel Left to Tell, published in 2006. In Rwanda, there were three tribes, and each citizen belonged to one of the tribes. These tribes were the Hutu, which were the majority, Tutsi, which were the minority, and an extremely small number of Twa, which was a pygmy-like tribe of forest dwellers.
Immaculee and her family belonged to the Tutsi tribe, and because of this they were under great threat. The Hutu tribe wanted to kill every single Tutsi in Rwanda, and this was the cause of the genocide in 1994. The Tutsi tribe was taller, lighter-skinned and has narrower noses, and Hutus were shorter, darker, and have broad noses, and each person had an identity card which labeled what tribe they were in. This is how the Hutus chose their victims, by their identity card or their looks. Not only was Immaculee under death threat, but she was also being treated unfairly by her peers.
She was an extremely smart girl, and because of her being a Tutsi, she was not able to get a scholarship to college. Before the genocide came into full effect, there were many reports on the radio warning the Tutsis of killings to come. One day, Damascene, one of Immaculee’s three brothers, told his family that he actually saw the killers, but they refused to believe him. They started to get nervous when President Habyarimana, the president of Rwanda, was killed. His plane was shot out of the sky, and this event sparked the beginning of the genocide. The more severe the radio reports were, the more nervous Immaculee and family got.
Immaculee tried not to show her fear, because if she did, she would not be able to stay strong through this event. Many neighbors gathered around her home because her father, Leonard, was a very respectable man in the neighborhood. One day, fifty Interahamwe armed with knives and machetes attacked the Tutsis outside of the Ilibagiza home. Leonard gathered more than one hundred Tutsi men together and rushed toward the killers. They tossed stones at them and scared them away. After this, Immaculee’s father gave her a red and white rosary and told her to keep it always, and she did.
The killers came back a second time, but this time no one joined Leonard to fight back. After this event, it was known that it was not safe, and Immaculee could not stay at her home. Immaculee and Augustine, a friend who was staying with the Ilibagiza family, were soon on their way to the home of family friend and local pastor, Pastor Murinzi. There, she was forced to hide in a small bathroom with seven other women, and there she had many spiritual experiences. While Immaculee was hiding in the bathroom, she could hear the killers and other people talking about what was going on.
Immaculee still did not know whether or not her family was alive. She cursed the killers, and hoped that they got treated as they were treating her fellow Tutsis. Because of this feeling, Immaculee could not have a feeling of calmness, and she was very angry. She prayed, but the devil was telling her that praying would not work, when she has so much hatred in her heart, and is wishing such horrible things on the killers. In a dream, Jesus appeared to her, and told her to forgive the killers and to stay calm and he would protect her.
She did as Jesus said, and forgave the killers, and she was one of the few whose life was spared during the genocide. Some people do not pray, and do not have God in their lives. These are the people that contribute to the evil and destruction of the world. The killers of the 1994 genocide were definitely evil, and they were being tempted by the devil to do such evil acts. Lies were made up just so they could kill Leonard, and the rest of the Ilibagiza family, who were very well respected in the town. Some people do not think over their actions, and do not make the distinction between what is right and wrong.
Some people just listen to other people because they are scared, so they do evil things, just because someone told them to. Unfortunately, I do believe that something this terrible may happen in our own country. In the last decade, some evil things have happened in America, such as the planes hitting the World Trade Center on 9/11 and the plane hitting the Pentagon, in the same day. Islamic people performed both of these evil acts. Most Americans have hatred for these people, and some especially because loved ones died in the World Trade Center.
Since then, there have been bomb scares, and the hatred has just been building up. If another tragedy occurs, Americans will most likely rebel, and want these people extinguished from the country, whether they look innocent or not, just for the sake of the country. It is much better to forgive, than to hate and hold grudges. By forgiving, you are following in Jesus’ path and becoming a better person. By hating and seeking revenge, you will harbor hatred in your heart and be an extremely angry person for always thinking of ways to get revenge.
I have learned that by forgiving, instead of hating, your prayers will be answered quicker. By following in the footsteps of Jesus, forgiving all who have harmed you, you will be a happier person, and by God being an important part of your life, you will have a good life. I will most definitely live differently after reading this book. Nothing in my life has ever compared to anything that Immaculee went through, and I should be extremely grateful for that. I will try to forgive all who have done wrong to me, and although it may not be easy, I know that God is there guiding me every step of the way.