“I was completely in tears,” she told Catholic News Service in a phone interview April 18. “To be accepted in this country … was like receiving a gift. … I hear my father saying, ‘now you have the right to be here, you don’t have to worry.”
An estimated 800,000 people – including most members of her family – were brutally murdered during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. In the early stages of the conflict, Ilibagiza was sent to hide with a member of another tribe at the behest of her father. “I am here today … because my father had trust in the man from that tribe,” she told an audience of 50 other immigrants who received their citizenship at the same ceremony.
A Catholic, the then-college student endured 91 days hiding in a bathroom from the “killers” who were looking for her. In her book “Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust,” she wrote: “They were … right on the other side of the wall. Less than an inch of plaster and wood separated us. Their footsteps shook the house, and I could hear their machetes and spears scraping along the walls. In the chaos, I recognized the voice of a family friend. ‘I have killed 399 cockroaches,’ he boasted. ‘Immaculee will make 400.’”
SHARED FROM CISA NEWS