(THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Jan. 4, 2013) A survivor of the Rwandan genocide will speak at California Lutheran University on Friday, Jan. 25.
Immaculée Ilibagiza will discuss the political and social factors that led up to the genocide, how she struggled to stay alive and her life today at 7:30 p.m. in Samuelson Chapel. In her stunning and unforgettable presentations, Ilibagiza describes how she discovered the power of prayer and a profound and lasting relationship with God, which enabled her to seek out and forgive her family’s killers. She also discusses how that kind of compassion and strength translates into everyday life.
Ilibagiza was born in Rwanda and studied electrical engineering. In 1994, the death of the country’s president sparked a slaughter of ethnic Tutsis by Hutu militia and shattered her life. She and seven other Tutsi women spent 91 days huddled silently in the cramped bathroom of a local pastor’s house while nearly 1 million people were killed. She entered the bathroom a vibrant, 115-pound university student with a loving family and emerged weighing just 65 pounds to find that a brother studying out of the country was the only member of her family to survive.
Her devout Catholic father gave her a set of rosary beads before she went into hiding. She began praying the rosary to counter the anger and resentment building up inside her during hiding. She also used the time to teach herself English with only a Bible and dictionary, knowing that if she survived she would still have to overcome immeasurable odds.
Once freed, Ilibagiza’s English language skills enabled her to secure a job with the United Nations. Four years after the genocide, she moved to the United States to continue her work for the U.N.
Ilibagiza’s first book, “Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust,” came out in 2006 and quickly became a New York Times bestseller. It has been translated into more than a dozen languages. She is the subject of the documentary “The Diary of Immaculée” and has signed a contract with MPower Pictures to produce a movie about her story. She has shared her story of survival and renewal with world dignitaries, students, multinational corporations, churches and conferences and has been featured in media throughout the world including CNN, “60 Minutes,” The New York Times, Newsday and People. She established the Left to Tell Charitable Fund to help orphaned children in Africa.
CLU’s Artists and Speakers Committee is sponsoring the free event. For more information, contact Eva Ramirez at 805-493-3349.