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Friday, September 25, 2020

Left to Tell: God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust

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I was given this book by my grandmother Toni Redo who encouraged me to read this on my study abroad trip to the continent of Africa. I knew no firsthand information about the different tribes and villages of the African culture (things the book referenced in reading) until coming to The Gambia. 

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I arrived in Kololi village after thirty long hours of travel at Dunes Hotel located in Kololi village. During the first week we visited different schools where children were separated in attendance count by tribes. This didn’t surprise me until I read Left To Tell.

Left To Tell changed my life. I began reading it after one week in Africa. I had a few hours of spare time in the hotel and decided to sit by the pool side and read; as I commenced my read I soon stopped and decided to continue reading the next day. The following day I sat by the lobby and began at chapter two where I left off. The first beginning of the read was so powerful that I couldn’t put the book down. By chapter three I felt overwhelming emotions that caused tears to fall. Imaculee LLibagiza tells a beautiful story of love, faith, terror, and forgiveness. As I continued the read I began to feel a feeling of complete sadness. I decided it was time to finish the read in private. I moved to my hotel room and finished my read as night fell.  Letters that the author wrote to her brothers, as they went away to boarding school, touched me dearly. I am the only girl in my family as Immaculée Ilibagiza was. The letters were a burst of profound love for her brother who left home for a better education. As the story advances, Immaculée struggles to get accepted into a top high school because she is of the tutsi tribe. In her first days of schooling she didn’t know what tribe she was from, she wondered why other students knew their native descent but she had not. After being picked on by her own instructor she was optimistic about what wrong doing the Tutsis must have done to be so few. She later found that there was an earlier genocide between the Hutu and Tutsi tribes, before the one that was ahead of her. During a holiday break from school, the author went home to visit her family for the last time ever. A tragic war broke out between the Hutu and Tutsi tribes. Her father being the neighborhood’s well-liked Tutsi and peace-maker, trouble soon found them. Crowds of thousands of Tutsis gathered at her father’s home for advice on how to handle the devil-stricken Interahamwe soldiers exterminating the Tutsi tribe Immaculée was sent off by her father to local Hutu pastor’s home to go into hiding until the war was over.  That was the last time she had seen her father.  Immaculée was nearly left to fend for her own but God had spared her. As she hid in a small bathroom with seven other women she found faith. Immaculée taught herself English in the bathroom where she often thought she would lose her life. She prayed more than fifteen hours a day. The author kept a treasure, a Catholic rosary necklace her father had given her for protection. Immaculée suffered and lost all faith on her family being alive after months of no report of them. Nearly four months of malnutrition and no walking, Immaculée was rescued by troops that came to Rwanda to save the few Tutsis left. Several countries had brought soldiers in and took them out just as fast and never acknowledged it after but that wasn’t the end of her terror. After the war had calmed down and hundreds of thousands were killed, the author thought she was free from the war zone. This was the true life or death test. She was yet again in the middle of a war zone. Many couldn’t believe she was still alive. After Hutus brutally killed her mother, father and two brothers, she was the only family member left other than her brother Amiable who was still out of the country in Senegal studying.  Immaculée took steps of faith to stay alive. She passed the same neighbours she had grown up with who became Hutu killers as she walked down her old childhood streets; after being rescued and dumbed back in a war zone, Immaculée found faith where there was none and drew closer to God in her most trying times. Even after losing all but one of her brothers, she found forgiveness in her heart. She forgave the cut-throat executioners who had not only killed her family but whose plan was to exterminate her entire tribe. She was able to give all of her problems to God and walk by faith with a forgiving heart. After losing her identity through sickly weight lost she also lost her first love, who was a young man of the Hutu tribe. The book gives you a feeling of love, happiness, terror and hate. More importantly, this read gives you a refreshing strength to forgive. I admire Immaculée Ilibagiza’s composure throughout the unimaginable times of terror. I passed this book on to my instructor who accompanied me on this study abroad trip and she explained to me what the book has also done for her. Not only does this read renew your faith, it adds a sense of purpose for everyone in this life. There is no debate that this is the best book you may ever have the privilege of reading.

 

Jasmine Redo is a student of Langston University on a study tour of Gambia. She is an intern at The Standard.

 

 

By Jasmine  Redo

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