Faith and Forgiveness with Immaculée

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“I needed to be willing. I am willing god, I am willing but how?”, words from Immaculée Ilibagiza during a women’s conference called the Catholic Diocese of Arlington in 2017. She is now a respected and successful woman whom gives forgiveness talks and speeches all around the world. Immaculée lived through one of the world’s most terrifying events and in my eyes, is the true meaning of the American dream.

Aside from all tragedies she was put through, she was able to overcome it through the grace of god and her self-strength. For example, “I had to have faith that God would help us; otherwise, why would we endure all the suffering, anguish, and betrayal?’ (Ilibagiza, 2006). This is the first occasion when Immaculée approaches God to give herself and others the courage to keep fighting. It foretells how she will depend on God in the months to come. She composes that she needed to have faith, which demonstrates that, for her and the reader, there was no other feasible option. Without the confidence in God she would’ve most likely not have possessed the capacity to keep her soul and faith unbroken throughout the circumstances her and the others were put through.

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According to the dictionary, the word forgive means stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake. Now, the genocide changed millions of lives in Rwanda and internationally, the few survivors grew hatred and distrust in everyone and anything because of what they were put through but in Immaculée’s case, she learned to forgive the event and the soldiers who carried out the horrendous occurrence, even the people who were responsible for her family’s death. The genocide even stretched out to a point where Immaculée envied the birds and other creatures that had the freedom to roam freely in comparison to the humans being dehumanized and killed abruptly. She states “when morning broke, the birds in the pastor’s shade tree began singing. I was jealous of them, thinking, how lucky you are to have been born birds and have freedom” (Ilibagiza, 2006).

This statement also demonstrates the start of the second thoughts and misfortunes that will frequent Immaculée all through and after the huge tragedy. It demonstrates the delicacy of peace and how rapidly everything can change. It is difficult to say who is to blame for the genocide, in my opinion, the event took careful planning and grouping. I do believe one perhaps had the idea of the cleansing but it was much group thinking and it took time for this to be carried out. There is still much debate on who and what it carried but the genocide was a combination of many events and not just a single one. I found that it had to be tremendously difficult for Immaculée to be able to clear her consciousness and heart ‘I held on to my father’s rosary and asked God to help me, and again I heard his voice: Forgive them; they know not what they do. That night I prayed with a clear conscience and a clean heart. For the first time since I entered the bathroom, I slept in peace’

I saw this incident as a step toward excusing the executioners, a revelation was being brought forth. Out of the blue, she felt sorry for the executioners which I thought was impossible for her and the hatred that had come into her soul. She even requested that God excuse the killers’ transgressions and turn their spirits toward his faith and love. Immaculée understands that the executioners are not underhanded and they have done wicked deeds but they don’t comprehend their actions taken, making them immature children, in her understanding. In the wake of hearing God address her, saying that all people are his kids, she understands that she can’t hold outrage at the executioners in her heart since they are unconscious of the horror of their activities. This acknowledgment starts the disclosure she has in this statement, and changes her life. Absolution is the most imperative subject of the story and this statement features when it initially turns into a piece of Immaculée’s life, as in the climax of her life during the genocide. Through her story, it felt as if any grudges being held to other people were irrelevant compared to her forgiveness and way of life.

Once she began going into hiding, she was faced with some extremely complicated decisions and choices but there was really always one answer. “I felt like a mother throwing her baby to a pack of wolves… I hustled the boys down the dark hall to the front door… “Be strong, Vianney. We will meet again soon.” They walked out the door and were swallowed by the darkness” (Ilibagiza, 2006). She really did not know if that was true but already felt guilty she was kicking the boys out and that is probably the hardest thing to do in my opinion, turn your back on your family based on gender.

Another example would be the last night she saw her family as a whole, ‘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”, Immaculée recalls (Ilibagiza, 2006). Immaculée had no clue this was to be their last supper together, notwithstanding thunders of agitation and stresses over the Interhamwe (is a Hutu paramilitary organization). This statement indicates how rapidly everything changed in the nation within 100 days there was already 100,000 individuals that were killed.

As the slaughtering begins, she is in search for hiding. Immaculée feelings were pushed to the wall when she was denied help from one of her closest friends because she was a Tutsi. ‘How could my dearest friend turn against me? We’d loved each other like sisters once-how could she be so cruel now? How was it possible for a heart to harden so quickly?’ (Ilibagiza, 2006). Immaculée begins to speculate on this incident. She is still in shock when her youth closest companion Janet declined to take her in when the slaughter starts. Janet briskly close her down and says she could never shroud a Tutsi in her home. This statement demonstrates the briskness that moved quickly through the hearts of Hutus in Rwanda when the slaughter started. Long lasting relationships were hurled away in the snap of a finger. This one experience remains in for many comparable ones happening crosswise over Rwanda as the genocide begins. It is an unyielding feeling to see one of your best friends deny you protection.

I believe that archiving this slaughter is additionally a method for respecting its casualties. The more we comprehend the planning and execution of this event, the more we will have the capacity to deflect comparative tragedies later or in the near future, in my opinion. This memoir of the Rwanda genocide that occurred, is eye-opening for any individual reading her story. From every aspect I can think of, she went through and survived an event someone would never think of going through in a million years. The novel may be religious in many readers stance but it should be a guide on how a person can overcome incidents in their life that they never knew were possible.


  1. “FRONTLINE.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service. Retrieved from
  2. Ilibagiza, I. (2014). Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust. Carlsbad: Hay House.

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Faith and Forgiveness with Immaculée. (2021, May 17). Retrieved from

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