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Rwandan Genocide Survivor Helps Walsh Students See the Power of Faith

What's New, 2013-11-01

Rwandan genocide survivor and inspirational speaker, Immaculée Ilibagiza, spoke to Walsh University students sharing with them her remarkable story.

Immaculée Ilibagiza lost most of her family during the 1994 Rwanda genocide where more than 800,000 people were killed in a 100-day massacre. She survived the horror by hiding in a 3-foot-by-4 foot bathroom with eight other women. She passed the time praying and teaching herself English with only the Bible and a dictionary.

Ilibagiza credits her ability to survive and forgive to a set of rosary beads given to her by her devout Catholic father prior to going into hiding. She prayed the rosary as a way of drowning out the negativity that was growing within her. Ilibagiza's deep faith empowered her to stare down a man armed with a machete threatening to kill her during her eventual escape. She also later came face-to face-with the killer of her mother and brother and said the unthinkable, "I forgive you."

In 1998, she came to the United States and began working at the United Nations.. Now a full-time public speaker and writer, she established the Left to Tell Charitable Fund, which helps support Rwandan orphans. She is the author, with Steve Erwin, of "Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust." Immaculée holds an honorary doctoral degree from Walsh University. In 2007 she was awarded The Mahatma Gandhi International Award for Reconciliation and Peace.