Heidelberg University will explore the theme of the 1994 Rwanda genocide through the eyes of survivor Immaculée Ilibagiza during the ninth annual Lichtman-Behm Genocide Lecture Series on Wednesday, Oct. 17.
This year, Heidelberg is pairing the Lichtman-Behm Genocide Lecture Series with its HYPE Career Ready® Program to bring Ilibagiza to campus. After speaking with first-year students, she will share her story with several hundred local/area schoolchildren at 11:15 a.m. in Seiberling Gymnasium. The community is invited to join the schoolchildren for Ilibagiza’s presentation, free of charge.
Born in Rwanda, Ilibagiza studied electronic and mechanical engineering at the National University of Rwanda. She survived the 1994 genocide in her homeland that took the lives of nearly 1 million Tutsi, including her entire family, except for one brother.
Ilibagiza survived by huddling silently with seven other women in a bathroom for 91 days. She realized that refusing forgiveness would not change anything and eventually, she met the man who massacred her family and forgave him face-to-face. Today, she is regarded as one of the world’s leading speakers on faith, hope and forgiveness.
She shared her story of emerging from terror and darkness to triumph in her 2007 autobiographical book, Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust, which landed on the New York Times best seller list. Her second book, Led by Faith: Rising from the Ashes of the Rwandan Holocaust, was published in 2008. Led by Faith describes her struggle to find her place in the world again and how she encouraged many of the orphans in Rwanda.
Eventually, Ilibagiza found refuge in the United States. In 1998, four years after genocide ravaged her country, she began working for the United Nations in New York City. Following the release of her first book, she established the Left to Tell Charitable Fund, which helps support Rwandan orphans. She became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2013.