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Survivor of Rwandan genocide visits Germantown

 Immaculée Ilibagiza speaking to the crowd. (Emily Brooks/for NewsWorks)

Immaculée Ilibagiza speaking to the crowd. (Emily Brooks/for NewsWorks)

This weekend, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Shrine of the Miraculous Medal in Germantown welcomed the community to a two-day retreat of prayer and testimony hosted by best selling author and renowned Catholic speaker, Immaculée Ilibagiza.

Ilibagiza was born and raised in Rwanda, surrounded by a loving family strengthened by their Catholic faith. But when she was 22 Immaculée ‘s life changed forever — she, her family, friends and neighbors fell victim to the Rwandan Genocide, a horrendous mass slaughtering of the Tutsi people of Rwanda. 

Beginning in April 1994 and lasting through mid-July, the Rwandan Genocide took the life of an estimated 500,000 to 1,000,000 Rwandans, approximately 70 percent of Rwanda’s Tutsi population.

For 91 of the 100 days of genocide, Ilibagiza hid inside the cramped bathroom of a local pastor’s home along with seven other women. When she emerged, she found herself emaciated and alone — the genocide had taken the life of her loving parents and two of her brothers. While in hiding, Ilibagiza was filled with anger and sadness, knowing that when she escaped her family would likely be gone and her life changed forever. Ilibagiza says she turned toward prayer, using the Bible and a set of rosary beads her father had given her before going into hiding.

Surviving the odds, Ilibagiza escaped from hiding determined to share her story of faith, love, forgiveness and hope. She immigrated to the United States in 1998 and in 2006 published her first book, “Left To Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Genocide.” 

The weekend retreat at the Shrine of the Miraculous Medal was themed around healing and hope and included two days of prayer, conversation and fellowship.

“Having this world renowned author and gifted speaker in Philadelphia is truly an honor,” said Alonza Baker, a volunteer organizing the event.

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