Rwandan Genocide Survivor Shares Story

Immaculée Ilibagiza shared her inspirational life story with all students in the auditorium Thursday morning.

Immaculée is a survivor of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, an atrocity which took the lives of approximately 800,000 people. Overcoming tragedy, Immaculée spent 91 days huddled silently together with seven other women in the cramped bathroom of a local pastor's house in order to avoid certain death at the hands of their fellow compatriots.

Her presentation began with a screening of part of a documentary about her life and the social and political climate of Rwanda that boiled over into a modern-day holocaust. Immaculée was a college student at the time. “I hid in this tiny bathroom for 91 days and they never found me, but I found myself,” she said in the film.

On the CJ stage, Immaculée described the lessons she learned while the eight women literally lived on top of one another in a 3 4 ft. square space. In hiding, she spoke to God, prayed the rosary 27 times a day, and was able to teach herself to speak English.

“You are never alone. God is real,” Immaculée told students while she held a rosary. She advocated for the power of love and forgiveness, which she described as, “the freedom, peace and grace of God that is available to anyone who sincerely and genuinely wishes for it.

“If we want peace in the world, we have to act with love and it is us who can make those decisions.”

The Catholic motivational speaker and published author travels the world spreading her message of peace, faith, hope and forgiveness. While she has spoken to world dignitaries, multinational corporations, churches, and elsewhere, Immaculée told the audience at CJ that she truly appreciates speaking with students and young people.

“The future of our world depends on you,” she told them. “We have hope in you.”

Immaculée’s story has been the subject of books and news reports. It will soon be made into a major motion picture.

After the assembly, Immaculée gifted her rosary to a student in the crowd, autographed and sold copies of four of her books, and posed for pictures.

Before her morning talk, she met with school officials and members of a Senior Capstone group who are studying the large Rwandan refugee population in the Miami Valley. Dayton is widely considered to have welcomed more immigrants from Rwanda than any other American city.


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