Left to Tell by Immaculee Ilibagiza

Subtitled Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust, this autobiographical story tells one young lady, a mmember of the Tutsi tribe, who survived the slaughter by the Hutu majority of the Tutsis in Rwanda. Immaculee’s parents and her two brothers along with most of her extended family were killed during the Rwandan holocaust in 1994. Immaculee survived only because a Hutu pastor hid her and seven other women in a secret bathroom in his home for over three months.

During those three months, Immaculee came to know what it meant to depend on the grace and protection of God, and she came to believe that God preserved her life for a purpose. She also came out of hiding and was able to confront and then forgive those who had murdered her famly and tried to take her life, too.

I found this book difficult to read, difficult to believe that people could become so evil as to torture and murder the neighbors who grew up with them and the adults who taught and mentored them. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to the Hutu/Tutsi enmity; according to Ms. Ilibagiza, there’s not even any simple way to tell members of the two tribes apart. Hutus feel that they were discriminated against in the past by the French-favored Tutsis. Tutsis felt that they were on the receiving end of the discrimination from the majority Hutus. And all the years of resentment and animosity exploded into violence and genocide after the death (assassination?) of Hutu President Habyarimana in April, 1994.

This book reminded me of Night, the book about the Jewish Holocaust during WW II that I read not too long ago. Not that the writing in Left to Tell was as distinctive and evocative as was that in Night, but the stories were much the same —unbelievable cruelty and tiny acts of mercy and charity nearly lost in a sea of horror. Immaculee emerges from her holocaust experience much more whole and able to grieve and forgive than did Mr. Wiesel; she seems to have a strong sense of God’s love for her and of His purpose in her life in spite of the suffering she had to endure in Rwanda.

Note: Although Immaculee herself talks and writes as an orthodox Roman Catholic Christian, her book was published by Hay House which is connected with the Hay Foundation, “established in 1985 to honor the work of metaphysical teacher, counselor, world-renowned author, and lecturer Louise L. Hay.” The foreword to the book is written by Dr. Wayne Dyer, another metaphysical, positive-thinking, New Age author and speaker. This connection doesn’t invalidate Immaculee’s experiences or insights, but it should make one cautious about reading and listening to her “friends.”

5 thoughts on “Left to Tell by Immaculee Ilibagiza

  1. I read this one awhile back and totally agree – it was hard to read but very eye-opening. Interesting about the foreword – I didn’t catch that -

  2. Immaculee’s story of survival and forgiveness is exceptional and heartbreaking. As an individual who was raised Catholic – I do not find any problem with the idea finding spiritual balance anyway we can. I tend to be more of an Unitarian – and embrace any belief that will help me get closer to a divine love.

  3. Immaculee’s experience is one of extraordinary faith and courage. I have done a bit of reading about similar experiences during the jewish holocaust, the armenian genocide and I’m doing some follow up on the happenings in darfur, so Immaculee’s story was of particular interest to me. I came accross a press release about her recent ventures, she is planning a pilgrimage to the catholic monuments of europe. To find out more about the pilgrimage here is the link to the press release.

  4. i read that book in 8th grade last year. i cried at first but than got myself together and read the rest of the book. i can imagine going through something like that. it opened my eyes to alot of things that are happing out side of america. i am no longer closted minded and ignorant about the evil in this world. i pray evryday god keeps my family safe and no harm comes to the ones i love.

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