Celebrated for her ability to forgive,Immaculée Ilibagiza, visited the Abbey, March 29. She miraculously survived the 1994 holocaust in Rwanda, East Africa and then told her story in a best selling book. She forgave the killers of her family and over 800,000 people in her country. Now she proclaims the Gospel of forgiveness around the world. Her website provides details: https://www.immaculee.com
Her story from her website:
Immaculée Ilibagiza is a living example of faith put into action. Immaculée’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. Immaculée 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).
Immaculée 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, Immaculée instead turned to prayer. She began to pray the rosary as a way of drowning out the negativity that was building up inside her. Immaculée 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.
Immaculée’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.” Immaculée knew, while in hiding, that she would have to overcome immeasurable odds without her family and with her country destroyed. Fortunately, Immaculée 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, Immaculée 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.”
Immaculée’s first book, Left to Tell; Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust (Hay House) was released in March of 2006. Left to Tell quickly became a New York Times Best Seller. To date it has been translated into fifteen languages worldwide. Immaculée’s story has also been made into a documentary titled “The Diary of Immaculée.” She has appeared in numerous media including 60 Minutes, CNN, EWTN, The Aljazeera Network, The New York Times, USA Today, Newsday, and many other domestic and international outlets. She was recently featured in Michael Collopy’s “Architects of Peace” project, which has honored legendary people like Mother Teresa, Jimmy Carter, Nelson Mandela, and the Dalai Lama.
Immaculée has received honorary doctoral degrees from The University of Notre Dame, Saint John’s University, Seton Hall, The University of St. Thomas, and Siena College. She has been recognized and honored with numerous humanitarian awards including: The Mahatma Gandhi International Award for Reconciliation and Peace 2007; a finalist as one of Belifnet.com’s “Most Inspiring People of the Year 2006,” and a recipient of the American Legacy’s Women of Strength & Courage Award. Left to Tell has received a Christopher Award “affirming the highest values of human spirit,” and been chosen as Outreach Magazine’s selection for “Best Outreach Testimony/Biography Resource of 2007.” Left to Tell has been adopted into the curriculum of dozens of high schools and universities, including Villanova University, which selected it for the 2007-2008 “One Book Program,” making Left to Tell mandatory reading for 6,000 students. in 2008, Immaculée was awarded the America’s Freedom Award.
Immaculée recently hosted a documentary titled “Ready to Forgive, An African Story of Grace,” a project sponsored by The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. The film focuses on the Acholi people of Northern Uganda and their desire to forgive their tormentors. “Ready to Forgive” has been broadcasted on NBC and the Hallmark Channel.
Immaculée recently signed a contract with MPower Pictures to produce a major motion picture about her story.
Today Immaculée is regarded as one of world’s leading speakers on peace, faith, and forgiveness. She has shared her universal message with world dignitaries, school children, multinational corporations, churches, and at many conferences. Immaculée works hard to spread her message and to raise money for her Left to Tell Charitable Fund which directly benefits the children orphaned by the genocide.
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