Evil Doesn’t Win in This True Story

Many things about this book are hard: the violence, the history, even pronouncing the author’s name.  But readers of Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust by Immaculee Ilibagiza will receive a gift.  This gift is seeing the human heart survive and even thrive through unspeakable evil.

Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust by Immaculee Ilibagiza, 2006

Post Format: Straight Talk

“I was born in paradise,” writes Immaculee.  Her homeland of Rwanda with its mountains, green valleys and sparkling lakes is “set like a jewel in central Africa.”  But in 1994, it was the scene of one of the worst genocides in human history.  The genocidal war lasted a mere three months.  Before it was over, more than 800,000 Rwandans lay dead, slaughtered by their own countrymen.

Though the war was swift, the history behind it was long.  Rwanda has two main ethic groups: the Hutus and the Tutsis.  These groups were at odds in years past with some Tutsis even exiled.  But increased tolerance and intermarriages blurred ethnic lines by the 1990s.  This relative peace was shattered, however, when the Hutu president was killed in a plane crash on April 6, 1994.  The exiled Tutsis, now seeing a chance to reestablish themselves in the government, returned.  The Hutus wanted these exiles killed as well as all their Tutsi countrymen to prevent any threat to their power.  They even handed out machetes by the thousands and encouraged average citizens to kill every Tutsi they came across.

Map of Africa

The Hutus killed Immaculee’s beloved parents and brothers in the massacre.  Immaculee, who had been sent to seek help from a Methodist minister, narrowly survived by hiding for months in a tiny bathroom with seven other Tutsi women.

The women, packed so tightly they could barely move, endured hunger, filth, and fear.   For Immaculee, there was also rage for the rampaging Hutus she could hear just outside the window.  How could they turn on their Tutsi neighbors and commit such atrocities?  She clung to her Catholic upbringing during the ordeal praying the “Hail Mary” and the “Our Father” unceasingly.  But she knew true Christianity can’t exist in a heart filled with hate for others.  How could she pray the words, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” and not live them?

On July 16, 1994 the exiled Tutsis, along with French forces, wrested final control from the Hutus.  Before the war, Immaculee was a young, pretty college student with loving parents, devoted brothers, and faithful friends.  After the war, she weighed a mere 65 pounds and had lost everyone.  Her heart was broken but not empty. For in that bathroom, where even a breath could give the women away, her silent, unceasing prayers revealed to her God’s love and protection.  She knew she’d never be truly alone.

Shortly after the war, officials rounded up the very man who murdered her family.  They asked Immaculee if she’d like to see him.  She agreed.  When she forgave the man instead of lashing out, one incredulous official asked how she could do it.

“Forgiveness is all I have to offer,” she said.

BONUS:  Today, Immaculee Ilibagiza is an author and public speaker.  She lives in the United States but still visits Rwanda.  She was awarded the Mahatma Gandhi International Award for Reconciliation and Peace in 2007.  Her inner and outer beauty is evidenced in this CBS interview.

Endpaper Match-up Game

Want to play?  I’m starting a new blog feature called GAMES.  These quick mind benders will highlight fun book facts.  I’m kicking the feature off with “Endpaper Match-up”.  Endpapers are the very first and last pages of a book.  Generally, they are solid colors with no personality.  But many publishers use this space to celebrate the book’s content.

Here are a few clever endpapers I’ve come across.  Can you guess which endpapers go with which book?  Scroll down for the answer key.

ANSWER KEY:

  1. C. PUT ME IN THE ZOO-Every child should have a copy of this fun classic about a creature with special spots.
  2. D. THIS BRIDGE WILL NOT BE GRAY-You’ll love the story of how the Golden Gate Bridge got its bright orange color.
  3. A. STAND STRAIGHT ELLA KATE-The endpapers of this true tale of an eight-foot tall woman feature a life-size drawing of her size 24 shoe.
  4. F. THE YEARLING-One of America’s greatest artists, N.C. Wyeth, illustrated this 1938 classic about a boy and his family in the Florida backwoods.
  5. B. HAVE YOU SEEN MY DRAGON?-Many endpapers feature maps.  This map of the main character’s journey through a big city intrigues the reader before he/she turns the first page.
  6. E. HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS-What could be better than Harry Potter? How about an illustrated edition by artist Jim Kay? These glorious endpapers depict the Hogwarts’ greenhouse.

QUESTION:  How about your books?  Any interesting endpapers?  Please share in the comments section.