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Survivor of Rwandan genocide meets Pope Francis

2014-10-27

She made it all the way from Rwanda to Rome. She's holding on tight to her rosary. It's not just any rosary-it was personally blessed by Pope Francis. 

Immaculee Ilibagiza says it was prayer that saved her life. In 1994, she survived the Rwandan genocide, hiding in a small bathroom. 

IMMACULÉE ILIBAGIZA
Survivor of the Rwandan genocide
"I remember on the second day my parents asked me to hide with a neighbor who was from another tribe and he was not the target. I went there. He put me to sit in three by four feet with other seven women. We were thinking it was going to be two or three days...we stayed in that bathroom three months. We never spoke to one another because he didn't tell his children that we were there. He told them that he had sent us away and he had lost the key of the bathroom.”

When things seemed safe, she left, only to find out that her family had been killed, along with the roughly 1 million people who were murdered. Only one of her three brothers, managed to flee. 

During those horrible months, as she hid in a small bathroom, she says she found inner strength in prayer. She prayed for herself...asking God that she may one day be able to forgive the man who killed her family. 

IMMACULÉE ILIBAGIZA
Survivor of the Rwandan genocide
"I was very angry in the beginning. And then, slowly, I realized that, if I have to pray to God and I truly believe in Him, this anger is not good, and it was hurting me to be angry... But we fought and I realized that I can forgive, I can ask God to help me to forgive. And finally I remember feeling just so happy, feeling that the moment came of forgiveness and I feel like a huge luggage was lifted from my shoulders and I was free.”

Time passed. One day she visited a local jail, to meet face to face with the man who murdered her family. 

IMMACULÉE ILIBAGIZA
Survivor of the Rwandan genocide
"I really wanted to just free him from thinking that I hate him, so he can start his own journey to forgive. So I reached out to him and I told him that I forgive him. I remembered he covered his face, he couldn't look at me anymore. I can feel something came out of his heart.”

Immaculée has written several books, on her suffering, forgiveness and faith. For years, she has worked to help other victims of the Rwandan genocide, as they try to rebuild their country.


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-Up: MPI