Rwanda: Rising from the ashes
“Left to Tell,” and “Led by Faith: Rwanda Rising from the Ashes,” books by Immaculée Ilibagiza, take you on a journey of immeasurable suffering and of unimaginable human resilience and reconciliation.
More than 20 years ago, on April 7, 1994, the Rwandan genocide began, in which Hutus slaughtered 800,000 Tutsis in just 91 days. Prior to the genocide, many of them had been neighbors and good friends to one another. That made it all the more painful and shocking.
“I wish I had known that that night was to be our last family supper together. I would have stood up and thanked God for all of them. I would have told everyone sitting around that table how much I loved them and thanked them for loving me. But I didn’t.”
These are the words of Ilibagiza, whose parents, two brothers and other relatives were slaughtered by the Hutus. Ilibagiza, given shelter by a Hutu pastor, was spared, as was her brother, Aimable, who was studying out of the country.
In “Left to Tell,” she tells her story of the country’s genocide. She documents how she was with seven other survivors in a cramped 3-by-4-foot bathroom for 91 days. It is both a horrifying and inspirational story of human tragedy, forgiveness and incredible human resilience.
After the genocide before the Hutus pulled out, we are told that the killers cut the power lines, contaminated the water supplies, torched schools and hospitals and bombed bridges and roads.
They even poisoned the emergency seed supply to destroy the next year’s harvest.
In “Led by Faith …,” she shares her own intense faith journey after the genocide and how her country responded to the challenges of such an overwhelming and devastating reality.
In 1998, Ilibagiza moved to the United States. Visiting her country in 2004, just 10 years after the genocide, the transformation she experienced was amazing.
These books will both break your heart and inspire you to greatness.
Update: In 2015, the United Nations has acknowledged the great strides that Rwanda has made in rebuilding its society and economy since the genocide, but emphasizes the time has come for the government to put the same energy and resources into creating an environment where assembly and association rights can thrive.