An eyewitness survivor of one of recent history’s most horrific genocidal regimes, Immaculée Ilibagiza shares her message of faith and forgiveness amidst the most awful of circumstances. Born in Rwanda and trained as an electrical engineer, Ilibagiza’s life was shattered in 1994 when the death of her country’s president sparked a slaughter of Tutsis by Hutu militia. Ilibagiza and seven other Tutsi women hid in a house for 91 days while nearly one million people, including most of her family, were killed.
In a stunning and unforgettable presentation based on her book Left to Tell and Led By Faith: Rising from the Ashes of the Rwandan Genocide, Ilibagiza describes how, during this time, she discovered the power of prayer and a profound and lasting relationship with God, which enabled her to seek out and forgive even her family’s killers. Four years after the genocide, Ilibagiza emigrated to the United States and began working for the U.N., establishing the Left to Tell Charitable Fund to help orphaned children in Africa. Ilibagiza has recounted her tale of survival and renewal to myriad audiences, including features on BET, CNN, The New York Times, Newsday, People and 60 Minutes and remains devoted to sharing with audiences the importance of faith, understanding and forgiveness.
Left to Tell: A Story of Peace, Hope and Forgiveness
In a moving and unforgettable presentation, Immaculée Ilibagiza shares with audiences her experience of survival during the Rwanda genocide. She discusses the political and social factors that led up to the genocide, how she struggled to stay alive, and where she is today. Immaculée then shares what led her to be able to forgive her killers, and how that kind of compassion and strength translates into everyday life. Her incredible story and attitude to overcome will encourage everyone who listens to her to hold onto hope.
Immaculée Ilibagiza is a living example of faith put into action. Ilibagiza’s life was transformed dramatically during the 1994
Rwandan genocide where she and seven other women spent 91 days huddled silently together in the cramped bathroom of a local pastor’s house. Ilibagiza entered the bathroom a vibrant, 115-pound university student with a loving family—she emerged weighing just 65 pounds to find her entire family had been brutally murdered (with the exception of one brother who had been studying out of the country).
Ilibagiza credits her salvage mostly to prayer and to a set of rosary beads given to her by her devout Catholic father prior to going into hiding. Anger and resentment about her situation were literally eating her alive and destroying her faith, but rather than succumbing to the rage that she felt, Ilibagiza instead turned to prayer. She began to pray the rosary as a way of drowning out the negativity that was building up inside her. Ilibagiza found solace and peace in prayer and began to pray from the time she opened her eyes in the morning to the time she closed her eyes at night. Through prayer, she eventually found it possible, and in fact imperative, to forgive her tormentors and her family’s murderers.
Ilibagiza’s strength in her faith empowered her to stare down a man armed with a machete threatening to kill her during her escape. She also later came face to face with the killer of her mother and her brother and said the unthinkable, “I forgive you.” Ilibagiza knew, while in hiding, that she would have to overcome immeasurable odds without her family and with her country destroyed. Fortunately, Ilibagiza utilized her time in that tiny bathroom to teach herself English with only The Bible and a dictionary; once freed she was able to secure a job with the United Nations.
In 1998, Ilibagiza immigrated to the United States where she continued her work with the UN. During this time she shared her story with co-workers and friends, who were so impacted they insisted she write it down in book form. Three days after finishing her manuscript she met best selling author, Dr. Wayne W. Dyer, who, within minutes of meeting her, offered to publish her book. Dyer is quoted as saying, “There is something much more than charisma at work here—Immaculée not only writes and speaks about unconditional love and forgiveness, but she radiates it wherever she goes.”