|Our Lady of Grace Shrine in King City, Ontario|
Here is a brief summary of Immaculee's tragic story. She grew up in a Catholic family. They were Tutsis, one of the two main tribes in Rwanda, the other being the Hutus. When the war broke out between these two groups in 1994, the Hutus set out to eliminate the Tutsis through a diabolical media campaign and the army. The holocaust began in April 1994 and lasted for 3 months, but by that time nearly 1,000,000 Tutsi had been slaughtered, in their homes, in churches, in stadiums and the countryside. Rwanda had become a killing field. Death, destruction and blood were everywhere and the evil had touched every family in the nation. The main reason: Tutsis who had been the favoured tribe of the former Belgian colonizers had to be exterminated.
|Immaculee addressing the audience|
She told us that she came to understand, in that crowded washroom, the heart of the truths of our faith: the value of prayer, reciting the Rosary and the importance of love and forgiveness. This happened even to point of when it makes no sense. Here she told everyone to think of the words in the Our Father: "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." And added the words of St. Luke when Jesus on the cross said to those who killed him, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." What do you do when you have lost most of your family and friends? What do you do when you have every reason to hate, to want revenge and to lose all hope that life is worth living? How do you treat the people who murdered your family, friends and destroyed the life you had? She turned to God and to her faith. It was prayer, especially the rosary, that sustained her life during those dark days of hunger, death, suffering and despair.
In her talk, she made it clear that you never expect that this kind of tragedy will happen to you or in your country. How does it happen? Her answer was not to try to explain Rwandan history and politics. Instead, she said that these horrors can take over a nation when it loses sight of God. The people of Rwanda had been warned by Our Lady of Kibeho. These Marian apparitions to several young girls took place in 1981 in Kibeho, 80 km from her village. Here Mary gave a number of ominous warnings, including a vision of the country taken over by violence and hatred. "But sadly," Immaculee told us, "we did not listen and the resulting genocide was the cost of embracing evil and rejecting God". Thus far the Kibeho apparitions are the only officially recognized events in Africa by the Catholic Church.
|Immaculee signing her books|
Here's the question that I asked myself as I listened to her moving testimony of faith and love and forgiveness: why was she saved when countless people died? The answer: God sends us many gifts. Some of them are things and some of them are people. Immaculee is God's gift to the world. It's God telling the world that love is stronger than hate, life is stronger than death, hope stronger than any despair and forgiveness stronger than revenge.