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Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust

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Immaculee Ilibagiza grew up in a country she loved, surrounded by a family she cherished. But in 1994 her idyllic world was ripped apart as Rwanda descended into a bloody genocide. Immaculee’s family was brutally murdered during a killing spree that lasted three months and claimed the lives of nearly a million Rwandans.

Incredibly, Immaculee survived the slaughter. For 91 days, she and seven other women huddled silently together in the cramped bathroom of a local pastor while hundreds of machete-wielding killers hunted for them. 

It was during those endless hours of unspeakable terror that Immaculee discovered the power of prayer, eventually shedding her fear of death and forging a profound and lasting relationship with God. She emerged from her bathroom hideout having discovered the meaning of truly unconditional love—a love so strong she was able seek out and forgive her family’s killers.

The triumphant story of this remarkable young woman’s journey through the darkness of genocide will inspire anyone whose life has been touched by fear, suffering, and loss.

214 pages, Paperback

First published February 15, 2006

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About the author

Immaculée Ilibagiza

19 books424 followers
Today Immaculée is regarded as one of world's leading speakers on peace, faith, and forgiveness. She has shared her universal message with world dignitaries, school children, multinational corporations, churches, and at many conferences. Immaculée works hard to spread her message and to raise money for her Left to Tell Charitable Fund which directly benefits the children orphaned by the genocide.

Immaculée Ilibagiza is a living example of faith put into action. Immaculée's life was transformed dramatically during the 1994 Rwandan genocide where she and seven other women spent 91 days huddled silently together in the cramped bathroom of a local pastor's house. Immaculée entered the bathroom a vibrant, 115-pound university student with a loving family - she emerged weighing just 65 pounds to find her entire family had been brutally murdered (with the exception of one brother who had been studying out of the country).

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 5,548 reviews
Profile Image for Stephen.
13 reviews35 followers
January 27, 2008
Entering this book, I was expecting personal account of the Rwandan holocaust, despite the foreword stating otherwise. In some ways, my expectations were met, in some others, I was surprised. More than just a chronicling of atrocities, Imaculee Ilibagiza's tale is also a testament to inner fortitude, faith, and the power to forgive.

As an agnostic (though my views on spirituality are constantly in flux) I expected that her story would come off as a bit hokey, with too much Jesus-speak for me. Again, I was surprised. While I tend to deny the miraculous slant she puts on many of her experiences in favor of a more worldly one, I find Ilibagiza's descriptions of her own faith nothing short of extraordinary. Her story, even for a nonbeliever, is an inspiring tale and a stunning demonstration of the power of her faith.

Her narrative style is perfectly suited to her content. She writes simply and straightforwardly, giving the impression that she is telling events just as they happened, in all their bone-chilling details. This book can be read in one sitting, though its effects will linger for days afterwards.

Definitely read this.
Profile Image for Gilbert.
83 reviews8 followers
October 19, 2012
"What was that all about, Immaculée? That was the man who murdered your family. I brought him to you to question...to spit on if you wanted to. But you forgave him! How could you do that? Why did you forgive him?"

I answered him with the truth: "Forgiveness is all I have to offer."

pg. 204


THAT line is the goal....but how the heck did this woman get to that point is why you NEED TO READ THIS BOOK!!

Guilt and anger are forces destroying our cultures, our churches, and ourselves most of the time, if we don't know any better. Even so, it is extremely hard to look at the ugly face of reality and actually embrace it.

This woman's message of how she came to forgive unspeakable atrocities (but she does write about them so that we can ponder the potential horror in society), and it needs to be heard and understood.

Yes, the book tells of gross details and it isn't some theme you could sip a latte over. BUT THIS MAY SAVE YOU FROM YOURSELF!

and isn't that worth the effort, to read a book that may not be at all lacking challenge, but one that will bring you to ask the question: what angers me or what relationship has been forgotten because of the lack of forgiveness?

God grant us the strength to not die with unresolved issues, or hate in our heart, regardless of circumstance.
14 reviews
September 6, 2007
I'm not giving this five stars because I think it is a great piece of literature or that it in any ways matches up with the great books of the world. The five stars are more for how powerful and raw the book felt and how much it physically effected me. To me this is the job of a really great survivor testimony. They don't have to be perfectly written or come with accompanying historical footnotes, etc. There were times as I was reading this book that I had a physical reaction to her story. She tells it in very simple terms and pulls no punches. I think some people might feel that she talks about her faith too much, and I have issues with that in my own life, but I would never deny that her faith is what got her through this horrific ordeal. Her story is not necessarily unique in the realm of the Rwandan genocide, though as I know from personal experience in working with Holocaust survivors every story is different and unique. Anyone with any interest in the power of human mind to overcome the absolute worst life can throw at you needs to read this book. Actually everyone needs to read this book.
Profile Image for booklady.
2,168 reviews65 followers
December 2, 2017
“I am human, and I think nothing of which is human is alien to me.” -Terence, Roman 2nd century playwright

The first time I read Left to Tell I was so overwhelmed by the horror of the Rwandan genocide I could barely take in all that is commendable in Immaculeé’s writing. This is a book which merits a second, even a third read. No, I did not become hardened or closed off to the immensity of the atrocity, but I was able to step back and notice new and different things which deepened my appreciation of this already amazing autobiography.

For example, I was able to savor all the little things with which Immaculeé filled her story: descriptions of her family and their compassion for one another; their simple lives and deep faith; their concern and care for their community; her family’s lack of prejudice despite their Tutsi minority status; the beauty of the Rwandan countryside; Immaculeé’s intense desire for an education and determination to get one despite all the obstacles she faced as a Tutsi; her many lovely and encouraging dreams of deceased family; her developing relationship with God, and SO much more.

And on my first read, I completely missed the unique custom in Rwanda, where every family member has a different last name. ‘Parents give each children a unique surname at birth one that reflects the feelings of the mother or father at the moment they first lay eyes on their new baby.’ In her native language, Ilibagiza means, ‘shining and beautiful in body and soul.’ Her father chose that name for her. What a beautiful legacy!

And sadly, when the genocide was over, the victims—and even their rescuers—exhibited the same angry, vengeful desires toward those who had wronged them, as had been vented on them only months earlier. Of course, this is only ‘natural’ and yet this is exactly what keeps the cycle of violence going generation after generation after generation.

If you haven’t read this book, do. If you have, don’t just read it once, or at least take your time with it. It is about so much more than death, violence, and hatred; it is about the triumph of love and forgiveness.

I put that quote at the beginning of this review as a reminder to myself—that numerically speaking, assuming I was a survivor—odds were more likely I would have been among those who caused the violence in Rwanda or wanted vengeance against those who did, than for me to have been one able to forgive as Immaculeé did. A sobering thought.

28 November 2017: Re-reading... It has been over eight years since I read this. Cannot remember if I loaned or gave away my copy of this book, but it is gone. So acquired a cheap second-hand copy to read before next year when Immaculée comes to OKC to speak. Will share this and her other book with my daughters and friend who are going to hear her.

21-22 October 2009: I couldn't put this book down from the moment I started it. Stayed up late at night reading it. I paid for it the next day at work; I was so tired, but it was worth it.

I finished it in two days because the author's story is so compelling. And it's not just what she suffered or lost, because many people endured greater tragedies and were left without anyone. What made Immaculeé's story stand out was that she focused on her spiritual development throughout the crisis. We see how she was raised as a devout young girl by loving parents, but how her country's civil war brought out an inner strength and reservoir of faith she didn't know she had. When she was confined with seven other women in a tiny bathroom, she used the time to pray, meditate and develop a rich interior life with God, which not only helped her endure her captivity but also laid a foundation for building a new life after the war ended.

The Rwandan genocide is a difficult subject to read about, but if you read no other book about it, I'd recommend this one. It's really a book about forgiveness and as such reminds me of a Vision Video I previewed recently which we purchased and plan to include as a part of our curriculum for the parent's portion of First Sacraments. I expect it could be used by many other church/faith groups as well. It's wonderful! It's called THE BIG QUESTION and it's the theme of Immaculeé's story, the purpose of her life: We all must learn to forgive.
Profile Image for Juliana.
121 reviews20 followers
March 23, 2009
To give this book fewer than five stars would be a statement that it was somehow incomplete or flawed. How could I find fault with something so heartfelt and genuine? This is a book I will not read again. This is a book I did not ENJOY reading, but it is a book that is worth reading. It is a book that uplifts, even while it subdues.

Would I recommend this book to my friends? Only certain of them. If you like to read books that entertain and put your brain on cruise control, this isn't the book for you. If you like books that feed you and make you grateful for the gifts God has given you, this is a book you won't want to miss.
60 reviews4 followers
March 29, 2011
Eye-opening. I didn't want to put it down. Most of all, humbling. I am ashamed at what horrendous things we, as human beings do to each other and also, what we ALLOW to happen. It broke my heart to read of all those refugees hoping and praying for help from someone--anyone, and no one stepped up to help. They were left to fend for themselves. I am ashamed at my own whining and complaining about nothing. I have everything! I am so very blessed.

I was inspired by Immaculee's ability to visualize what she wanted...and she always got exactly what she visualized! One of my favorite lines in the book was this: "I was living proof of the power of prayer and positive thinking, which really are almost the same thing. God is the source of all positive energy, and prayer is the best way to tap in to His power."

I also loved the part where she asked the pastor who was hiding her for a Bible. (I had a similar experience recently with opening my own scriptures to a passage that I knew was meant especially for me.) Immaculee had just prayed for another woman (the pastor had turned the woman away) and she had also pled for a sign that God was watching over her and the women in the bathroom with her. At that moment the pastor opened the door and gave her the requested Bible. She opened it immediately and looked down to read Psalm 91 which reads:

"This I declare, that He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; He is my God, and I am trusting him. For He rescues you from every trap and protects you from the fatal plague. He will shield you with His wings! They will shelter you. His faithful promises are your armor. Now you don't need to be afraid of the dark any more, nor fear the dangers of the day; nor dread the plagues of darkness, nor disasters in the morning. Though a thousand fall at my side, though ten thousand are dying around me, the evil will not touch me."

She was spared and lived to tell her story. It is worth reading.
Profile Image for Clif Hostetler.
1,056 reviews681 followers
September 28, 2015
It's sadly ironic that some people see proof that there is no God when they consider the evil manifest in the Rwandan holocaust. This author lived through that holocaust, her family were victims, and she says she discovered God amidst it. The style of this book is that of a religious faith journey. Considering the unbelievably horrible things she experienced, I can't suggest a better approach to the subject.

The terrible things that happened are beyond belief! I suppose it makes little sense to compare various historical holocausts in an effort to determine which was worst. But the unique characteristic of the Rwandan holocaust that shocks me is how up close and personal many of the killings were. The majority of the killing was done with macheties and in many cases the killers and victims knew each other, were neighbors, had grown-up together and gone to school together. The predominate religion in the country was Christianity (see footnote), they spoke the same language and they had similar skin color. We're talking about nearly a million people killed (20% of the population) which leads to the probable conclusion that there may have been about the same number of people guilty of murder.

In the case of Immaculée Ilibagiza, the author of this book, the killers called out her name while searching the house where she was hiding. They had reason to believe she was there but were unable to find her. She recognized their voices. One of the voices was of a man who she later learns killed her mother and brother and a man who's children she had been classmates with in grade school.

Most people assume the holocaust was a Hutu versus Tutsi tribal conflict. But many Hutu's were massacred in the holocaust as well. 10% to 20% of those killed may have been Hutu. It was actually a massacre initiated by a politically extreme group that advocated the ideology of "Hutu Power" that called for killing all Tutsis and moderate Hutus. I found it of interest that there was a Hutu soldier among the RPG (Tutsi) armed fighters who rescued Immaculée and her group of Tutsi survivors. It was the Hutu soldier who recognized Immaculée as a former classmate and saved her and her group from being charged as Hutu spies. They were suspected of being Hutus because the first soldiers they encountered couldn't believe it possible that any real Tutsis could have survived the holocaust in that part of the country.

One story from the book that I think illustrates the predicament of the Hutus is one family that rescued and hid a Tutsi woman who had been left for dead. Even though the family was hiding a Tutsi in their house, their son went out each day during the 90 day killing spree to join with other armed Hutus to look for and kill any Tutsis they could find. He had to participate in these murderous activities to prevent other Hutus from suspecting his family of harboring a Tutsi. So it is very possible that some of the killers were reluctant participants in the killing. Hutu families who were found to be hiding Tutsees were slaughtered along with the Tutsis they were hiding.

Immaculée lost her mother, father and two brothers to the holocaust. One brother survived by being out of the country. After the RPG had occupied the country and brought the killing to an end, Immaculée met and talked to the man who killed her mother and brother. This is the man who called out her name while looking for her to kill her. It is presumed that his interest in making sure all members of the family were killed was because he was interested in claiming their family's property. She was able to look him in the eye and say, "I forgive you." When asked why she said, "Forgiveness is all I have to offer."

Link to Immaculée’s webpage:

As of 2006, Catholics represented 56.5% of the population of Rwanda, Protestants 37.1% (of whom 11.1% were Seventh Day Adventists) and Muslims 4.6%. 1.7% claimed no religious beliefs.
Profile Image for Ellie.
1,448 reviews365 followers
January 31, 2020
Very, very powerful. Ilibagiza survived the Rwandan massacre, almost alone amongst her family, by hiding in a small bathroom for three months with seven other women. In this bathroom, she turned to God.

I'm not a big fan of motivational/inspirational literature but this was undeniably moving. I read parts of it many times. The horrors of the holocaust sickened me. It was also terrifying to once again read of the irrational cruelty we same to inflict on each other over and over. I felt obligated to be a witness to the author's pain and to carry some of the memory of that event.

But I was also moved within my own faith, which (with far less of a test) is much weaker than that of the author. How she could pray to forgive the people who slaughtered her family (many of whom were friends and neighbors before the terror began), is beyond my understanding. But, in the way I feel about Victor Frankl, I need to listen when people who have survived situations beyond human endurance.

I borrowed the book from the library; I intend to buy it: it's a book worth owning.
Profile Image for Matt Evans.
332 reviews
July 16, 2008
Shocking and inspiring. Ms. Ilibagiza tells the story of what happened to her during the Rwandan Holocaust. The narrative's glut of horrific violence made me sick at heart, but Ilibagiza's faith and personal strength pulled me through.

These people are just like you and me: human, educated, desiring of a happy life, and it's stunning to see how quickly so much of this can go down the tubes when mob mentality, based on racial prejudice, sets in. And lest my dear review reader thinks that such things don't happen in America, let's pause for a moment to consider what happened in New Orleans during Katrina. Yes, Katrina, New Orleans, wasn't anything close to a Rwandan Holocaust, but I was shocked how many people, in the aftermath -- good religious, supposedly god-fearing people -- said things to me like, "Those people weren't smart enough to leave when they should have" or "Why should I send money, they're just a bunch of welfare cheats anyway", etc. Barbara Bush spoke for many when she said of the Houston Astrodome Refugess: "They're loving it here."

It's exactly that brand of dismissive rationalization and downgrading of human suffering, based on class- and racial-prejudice, taking place over decades, that set the stage for the Hutu massacre of the Tutsis. The Nazi Holocaust took off from the nearly exact same foundation of social and class prejudice against the Jews.

Anyway, I think that this should be required reading. Ms. Ilibagiza is remarkably brave, and you need to hear her story.
Profile Image for Books Ring Mah Bell.
357 reviews246 followers
April 7, 2010
Faith can be defined as:
1. confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another's ability.
2. belief that is not based on proof
3. belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion
4. belief in anything, as a code of ethics, standards of merit, etc.
(courtesy Dictionary.com)

How Immaculee Ilibagiza's faith was not shattered and completely destroyed after her ordeal in the Rwandan holocaust is astonishing. Tribal tensions between the Hutus and the Tutsis escalate and the Hutus set about destroying any Tutsi - from infants to elders, no one is spared, except for those that are hidden away. Immaculee manages to survive by being secretly stashed in a tiny bathroom for 3 months with several other women. Her family is murdered - her grandparents, parents, brothers, aunts, uncles, and cousins (including an 8 month old baby.) They are only a small portion of the million lives lost in the genocide.

At one point, she hears screaming, then silence, then a baby crying. The baby is left for dead, and Immaculee has to hear the baby cry all night until the crying is replaced by the sound of snarling dogs. She prays for the child's soul and asks God, "How can I forgive people who would do such a thing to an infant?" He responds to her, "You are ALL my children... and the baby is with me now."

This comforts her and she manages to go into "forgive them they know not what they do" mode.

I go into "If we are ALL your children, I think you need to mix in a time-out. And maybe throw in some birth control while you are at it" mode.

I read way too many books like this, Night, The Rape of Nanking, and I am repeatedly horrified by how these atrocities can occur. (maybe if I stop reading I can throw away my Paxil!!!)
How someone is able to get to the point that they think it's okay, necessary even, to chop babies in half or throw hundreds of people into a fire because they are ethnically different is incomprehensible.

What the hell goes wrong in your head that makes murder okay?!?!

I get self-preservation. I get self-defense. I do. If someone comes into my home intending to do my family harm, then it's on. I will put my life on the line to protect, no questions asked.

So is what happens with genocide a preemptive thing? Get them before they get us/taint the gene pool/ whatever??? Or is it driven by pure hatred? Is it the devil? I hate to go there, but I really can't wrap my mind around all these unspeakable evils without thinking there's a huge evil force behind it all. Which then gets me thinking, "where the hell is goodness/love and God" while this is going on?
We don't want to go there, not now. (do we?)

All I know, is that my faith, which most days is weak to non-existent, would certainly be gone after enduring what Immaculee endured.

Profile Image for Glenna.
234 reviews32 followers
April 19, 2009
All those who harassed Eliece about this book, need to buck up and read it. This is a story that everyone should know. This is a story of great faith. Even though it deals with what happened in Rwanda (which we should all understand) it is the story of a young woman who found God in a bathroom and how he rescues her again and again even through some very difficult situations. My favorite quote from the book happens when there are killers outside the place she is hiding, calling her name and she is praying and has a vision of Jesus who says to her "mountains are moved with faith, Immaculee, but if faith were easy, all the mountains would be gone."
Profile Image for Negin.
591 reviews151 followers
August 19, 2018
When I first came across this book, I couldn’t make up my mind as to whether I would be able to handle all the pain. I kept picking it up and putting it back on the shelf. After all, it is about the Rwandan genocide and I’m not particularly strong when it comes to these things. I still haven’t been able to watch “Hotel Rwanda” and am not sure if I ever will. The pain and trauma hit a bit too close to home for me. No, I haven’t experienced anything like what this book describes, but I have experienced other events that I would really rather not think about anymore: political instability to the point of great fear in two countries that I’ve lived in, as well as a major hurricane.

This is one of those books that really got me thinking. Immaculee suffered immensely and her story is truly riveting. Painful, horrific, and still so amazing – this book reminded me of the incredible power of prayer and trusting in God. Although her faith in God is beyond measure, there are a few points that come to my mind that I disagree with.

First, she equates prayer with positive thinking. I do not believe that they are one and the same.

Second, although her ability to forgive is incredible, it’s also a bit difficult for me to comprehend. When it comes to unlimited forgiveness, for sure she is in a different place than me. I take issue with automatically forgiving murderers and believe that true forgiveness, especially when it comes to such atrocities, can only come from God. I feel quite certain that the publisher of this book has a definite bias in favor of automatic forgiveness.

Finally, in one part of the book, I recall her describing the monsters that were murdering everyone left, right, and center, and saying that they weren’t bad people. Here, I will quote from one of my all-time favorite authors, Dennis Prager. This is from a book that I need to read again and again, “Think a Second Time”. This is from the first chapter in his book. I would quote the entire chapter if I could!

“The belief that people are basically good is one of the most widely held beliefs in contemporary society … To believe that human nature is basically good – after Auschwitz, the Gulag, Rwanda, Armenia, and Tibet, just to mention some of the horrors of the twentieth century alone – is a statement of faith, as nonempirical as the most wishful religious belief. Whenever I meet people who persist in believing in the essential goodness of human nature, I know that I have met people for whom evidence is irrelevant.”

Regardless, I am so happy that I read this. It is filled with love, compassion, and resilience. Reading it has inspired me to improve my own relationship with God and to learn to trust in Him more.

Some of my favorite quotes:
“The love of a single heart can make a world of difference.”

“I knew that my heart and mind would always be tempted to feel anger--to find blame and hate. But I resolved that when the negative feelings came upon me, I wouldn't wait for them to grow or fester. I would always turn immediately to the Source of all true power: I would turn to God and let His love and forgiveness protect and save me.”

“But I came to learn that God never shows us something we aren't ready to understand. Instead, He lets us see what we need to see, when we need to see it. He'll wait until our eyes and hearts are open to Him, and then when we're ready, He will plant our feet on the path that's best for us...but it's up to us to do the walking.”

“Whenever I prayed, I immediately felt His love around me, and the anxiety eased.”
Profile Image for Christy.
959 reviews20 followers
July 12, 2009
From the first page, there’s something phony about this book, but it’s hard to pin down. I have no doubt that Immaculee lost her entire family, and I’m very sorry for what happened to her and her people. I believe the basic facts of the story, because I remember news accounts of the time, but some of Immaculee’s details sound fake. Eight women hiding in a bathroom three feet by four feet, (with a toilet taking up some of the room,) and the minister throws in a mattress for them? At one point in the story, she says there were 40 to 50 killers in the room next to her. How could she possibly have known how many there were? She’s a tall woman weighing 115 pounds at the beginning of the story, (hard enough to believe in itself,) then she loses 50 pounds over the next three months, getting down to 65 pounds, and the night they are let out of the bathroom, she runs to safety? How could she even walk? By the way, how could she know she weighed 65 pounds, when she lived in very primitive conditions for the next several weeks. But it’s not just the strange and contradictory details, but the whole tone of the book that seems fake. I notice on her web site that she has a full speaking schedule, she makes numerous media appearances, and that she recently signed a movie contract. Since the book was written twelve years after the war, maybe she had gotten into the habit of making a good story even better. Too bad. The simple truth would have had a deeper impact.
Profile Image for Helen.
309 reviews18 followers
October 8, 2011
Everyone should read this. It is not a pleasant book to read, but it is an important one. After surviving the most ghastly genocide of our generation, Immaculee says, "I may have lost everything, but I kept my faith, and it made me strong. It also comforted me and let me know that life still had purpose." As hard as it is to read, it is profoundly inspiring.

Why then does mankind keep repeating these atrocities?
Profile Image for Audrey.
997 reviews152 followers
June 22, 2018
4+ stars

This is a personal account of a survivor of the Rwandan genocide in the 1990s, not so much a history of the entire genocide. It’s deeply personal and uplifting despite all the atrocities. It’s very much a companion to The Hiding Place.

Immaculee grew up in a wonderful family and excelled in STEM subjects in school despite encountering extreme racism. She went home from college for Easter when the genocide started in earnest. She survived by hiding in a pastor’s house in a tiny bathroom for three months. There were six women and then eight. Being unable to move or make any noise for that whole time, Immaculee immersed herself in meditation and prayer, using the time to strengthen her faith and character.

Immaculee’s efforts to forgive and stop the cycle of hatred and violence is really inspiring; her determination and hard work are great examples; all can learn from it. People of all faiths will be inspired by all the miracles she witnessed, but I think Catholics especially will be moved by this account. (Atheists will be just be amazed at all the lucky coincidences.)

It was a case of the oppressed becoming the oppressors, part of a never-ending cycle. This book makes racism and blind hatred seem really stupid. The U.S. at the time refused to acknowledge the genocide: https://www.theguardian.com/world/200... It’s frustrating because the only lesson we could glean from the WWII Jewish Holocaust was “never again,” yet it still happens.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Just to nitpick about the Bible, Immaculee refers to a psalm that she felt was an answer to a prayer. She wasn’t reading in English, but the book cited the Contemporary English Version. Compare that to the King James Version—isn’t KJV so much more poetical and powerful?

Contemporary English Version
2 Then you will say to the Lord, “You are my fortress, my place of safety; you are my God, and I trust you.”
3 The Lord will keep you safe from secret traps and deadly diseases.
4 He will spread his wings over you and keep you secure. His faithfulness is like a shield or a city wall.
5 You won’t need to worry about dangers at night or arrows during the day.
6 And you won’t fear diseases that strike in the dark or sudden disaster at noon.
7 You will not be harmed, though thousands fall all around you.

King James Version
2 I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.
3 Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.
4 He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.
5 Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;
6 Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.
7 A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.
Profile Image for Vicky.
108 reviews14 followers
October 1, 2020
Recently I heard Immaculee speak at an online prayer Conference primarily on the Rosary.I was so deeply moved that I had to read her story which I gather is soon to be made into a film.

She had begun life in the most beautiful country-Ruanda-in an idyllic world,largely shielded from its' harsher political reality by her protective and devout Catholic family.Although her tribe was heavily discriminated against she worked hard to gain a university scholarship and was looking forward to her studies when in 1994 the whole country was plunged into chaos.The presidents plane was shot down and her tribe was blamed.A terrible Genocide followed which continued unchecked for three months.She was hidden in a bathroom in the home of a family friend and,with seven other women,emerged after 91 days only to discover that nearly all her relatives and friends had perished and that she was one of a very few "Left To Tell."

To date,she has written eight books about her experiences before and after the massacre.In a recent newsletter from her website she explaines why.
" I felt compelled ....to share my journey after the loss of my family. I had to learn to walk again, to live anew without the love and guidance of my family, so I chose Faith, God." She goes on to say "I had to make many decisions on my own without my dad and mom and my brothers’ support, so I had to learn to trust God....my hope is that it will inspire you and others to trust God, and to lean on Him in your every decision."

This story is not only an account of an alarming event in modern history but also about the God who she believed miraculously saved her,taught her to pray-and,more amazing still,- showed her how to forgive.
Profile Image for Karin.
1,311 reviews5 followers
October 5, 2022
3.5 stars

Immaculée Ilibagiza grew up in a happy, loving home, and had no idea there was rivalry between the Hutu and the Tutsi until a teacher did a special roll call for each group. This story starts with her struggle to get to university, and then how that was torn away once the civil war and the enormous genocide in this small country began. She spent three months hidden in a 3 foot by 4 foot bathroom along with 5-7 other women.

Although I didn't think I would give this book this many stars at first, it was a powerful tale of survival and one woman's account of how she survived this and later began to work for the UN, and how she seeks to help other survivors.
Profile Image for Kt.
199 reviews
October 10, 2007
This book broke my heart over and over all the while strengthening my spirit. I learned that no matter what your situation you can put your trust in God's hands. Often times I feel like my own needs are trivial in comparison to what others may be dealing with and that I don't have a right to burden Heavenly Father with my miniscule problems and questions. But we all need direction, no matter what your circumstance and we all need support.
This book was wonderful. I marveled at her amazing faith and her willingness to forgive and love. It inspired me to serve more willingly, to be more informed, and to try to put my life in God's hands.
Profile Image for Liaken.
1,497 reviews
December 3, 2009
I haven't read much about the Rwandan genocide because it still feels so close. It hurts me too deeply to realize that this happened in my conscious lifetime. But a close friend of mine said she kept thinking I should read this book and then lent it to me.

Well, I read it. And here is my review. I'll address it in two parts: The Story and The Writing.

The Story: It is terrifying to see an entire country collapse into rampant mob-murder. I can't really take it in entirely. It's too much to think that people could kill their neighbors that they've loved. It is inspiring to see Immaculee hold on to God to make it through these atrocities. I'm amazed that she can look at the man who led the mob that killed several in her family and say "I forgive you."

The Writing: There's a problem here. I can feel Immaculee's voice underneath it--her efforts to put this story into words. I can feel her desperation and horror, her peace and faith. She's there. But heavily on top of her voice is the "with Steve Erwin." The journalistic writing style that overwrites emotions and uses too many adjectives conflicts with her story, making it seem less real rather than more real. Added to this is the very strange problem of using language from Western New Age ideas to describe her use of faith and prayer. The term "positive thinking" and related terms and ideas are very heavy toward the end of the book.

The preface is by Wayne Dyer, and in the acknowledgments, he is praised as the one who made the writing of the book possible. And his deep fingerprints are visible in this book. This really cheapened the story for me and made me angry that some American would use this woman's survival to forward his own philosophies. Saying that prayer and "positive thinking" are the same, which the book literally does, collides thoroughly with the desperate, meditative, almost trance-like prayer that Immaculee holds on to through her hiding and even after. It feels imposed and false.

This really is my big hangup with the book: the imposed message that if you just think positively, everything will work out for you in the end and you'll get everything you want. There is, of course, something to be said for positive thinking, but to have this extreme version of this concept in the middle of a story, a real story, where so many people died (who may have been thinking positively, too, you know), it rings false.

I'm glad that she was able to tell her story. And I think it will help people. But I wish that others hadn't imposed their agenda on this book (shame on you, Wayne Dyer).
Profile Image for LaSchelle.
202 reviews
January 28, 2009
Amazing survival story! Through her ordeal, she was isolated with 7 other women for 3 months in a tiny bathroom. She turned to prayer and meditation as she had no idea how long this ordeal would last. Through this horror, she became closer to God. She listened to inspiration from God and it saved her life and the lives of those with her.

It was a great reminder that money and power can influence people to do evil. Slowly, people can be influenced to believe things that are not true or act inhumanly based on subtle propaganda.

Her ability to forgive allowed her to move on with her life and help others.

Some of my favorite quotes:
"All I could do was pray, so that's what I did." p.114

"I reached out, touched his hands lightly, and quietly said what I'd come to say. "I forgive you." My heart eased immediately. "That was the man who murdered your family. I brought him to you to question . . . to spit on if you wanted to. But you forgave him! How could you do that? Why did you forgive him?"

"I answered him with the truth: "Forgiveness is all I have to offer."
" p.204

Profile Image for Oliver.
414 reviews5 followers
July 25, 2019
Reading this book is a pretty sobering experience. Author Immaculée Ilibagiza is a survivor of the 1994 Rwandan Holocaust, during which approximately 1,000,000 people were killed over the span of 100 days. This book is to the Rwandan Holocaust what The Diary of a Young Girl is to the Jewish Holocaust. Like Anne Frank, Ilibagiza is not writing about the history, politics, or culture of her country, or of the genocide, but rather how it affected her (although Ilibagiza's recount is obviously more intentional). At the age of 22, Ilibagiza hid in a 3x4’ bathroom with seven other women for most of the genocide (91 days, specifically), so the book is extremely personal. Her story is despairing and hopeful all at once.

So what can one say about a book like this? The writing style is simple, and the book is pretty short, so it is a quick, easy (atrocities aside) read. Her descriptions and fluidity are so clear that the reader can tell that the details of the ordeal are still as fresh in Ilibagiza’s mind as if they had happened to her only days prior to writing.

But the events are not really what leaves the impression. Most anyone who lives through a horrendous catastrophe could probably write a successful book about their experiences, but Ilibagiza’s unfaltering positivity, resolve, faith (in both God and humanity), and empathy stick out much more than the circumstances themselves. Just imagine being crammed in a tiny room, suffering from lice, the occasional 105° fever and/or urinary tract infection; while people, many of whom were your neighbors and/or long-time family friends, are just on the other side of the wall searching for you so they can rape and murder you. And then imagine walking out of that bathroom after three months (weighing a mere 65 pounds, might I add), strengthened in your faith and actively forgiving those guilty of slaughtering your whole family.

She attributes every stroke of fortune to God, and certainly some of the things that happen are truly miraculous, but it’s still hard, as a spiritual cynic who is still sitting on the fence, to not instinctively make arguments in that regard. However, this is neither the most appropriate time nor place for that debate. Suffice it to say that it feels like Ilibagiza is just short-changing herself - her persistence, resilience, and benevolence. One passage that really sticks out is, “I was living proof of the power of prayer and positive thinking, which really are almost the same thing. God is the source of all positive energy, and prayer is the best way to tap in to His power.” Is she pointing out or missing something that is so simple it is obvious?

Call it karma, or divine intervention, or simply getting out what you put in- whatever you want; the fact remains that Ilibagiza is certainly one of the most impressive and inspirational people I know of. Her story is honest, touching, and life-affirming; and readers can certainly learn something about love, equality, life, and passion from it, regardless of religion or race.
3 reviews1 follower
April 28, 2017
Imagine being in a closet sized bathroom with 7 strangers for 91 days. Most of us cannot even imagine this. Immaculee Ilibagiza lived this horror during the Rwandan Genocide in 1994. I was very surprised upon reading this novel. This fascinating story was not just about the Rwandan government and about the genocide, but it is also about Immaculee’s journey with god. Immaculee is brought up in a very religious household and being a minority never crossed her mind. In Rwanda there are two tribes, the Hutus and the minority: Tutsis. These Tutsis lived in the same neighborhoods, went to the same schools, churches etc but when the government calls for all the Tutsis to be killed, the extremist Hutus go at it. The Tutsis were viciously hunted “‘and they were all annihilated. First the killers shot them with machine guns, and then they threw grenades at them.’”(Ilibagiza 146). Similarly in Nazi Germany, the minority is wrongly viewed and treated. I personally and disgusted by some of the things that people considered to be okay to do back in the day but we need to understand that this was just considered the norm. Immaculee is inspiring in this beautiful story where she describes her relationship with god. She said “she felt like the daughter of the kindest, most powerful king the world had ever known. I surrendered my thoughts to God every day when I retreated to that special place in my heart to communicate with Him. That place was like a slice of heaven, where my heart spoke to His holy spirit, and His spirit spoke to my heart. He assured me that while I lived in His spirit, I’d never be abandoned, never be alone, never be harmed.”(106). I personally really liked how Immaculee talked about how God gave her strength to get through such a hard time in her life. She is truly an inspiration to women everywhere. She is like a bird, soaring over all her problems and eventually being free. This book is an eye opener to a horrific genocide that was forgotten in history. It tells the story of a smart young girl named Immaculee and her journey with forgiveness. It reminds us the power of god and that shows us how a corrupt government can affect minorities. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone and everyone. It is a story about an event lost in history that needs to not be forgotten. At the end of the day, this book reminds me of how blessed and lucky I am to be living the life I am living in a free country. “Left to Tell” by Immaculee Ilibagiza reminds me of the famous saying “I see humans, but no humanity.”
Profile Image for Amy J.
46 reviews
November 27, 2008
This book is much like "The Hiding Place" in its focus on forgiveness and God's love and support through such great trials. It is very difficult to get through, with details of the violence and horror that were a part of this genocide. Very disturbing. Most distressing to me though, was how much about this event I didn't know. It's hard to imagine that we live in a world where things like this happen, and we don't tune in or send help. I think of W. H. Auden's poem, "Musee des Beaux Arts," and I am ashamed.
Profile Image for Debbie.
89 reviews
July 24, 2009
I've had this book sitting on my nightstand for several weeks, after checking it out from the library thanks to many recommendations from friends and acquaintances. I'm so glad I finally made the time to read it. It really is a page turner and doesn't take long to get through it. Once you begin you can't put it down, in part because you want the suffering to end.

Left to Tell is the true and horribly detailed account of a tremendous evil that left over one million dead--most of them chopped to death with machetes by their own friends and neighbors at the urging of the government, while the United States and the rest of the civilized world did nothing. The Rwandan genocide lasted only about one hundred days, but in that brief span of time, the ruling Hutus brutally murdered over their Tutsi countrymen. Any Hutu who resisted or sheltered Tutsis was also brutally murdered. Husbands were made to watch their wives being gang raped before they were slaughtered. Mothers watched their babies being slashed to death, or had their babies left motherless on the road while they were killed. The atrocities that were committed are mind-boggling and left me feeling bitter and angry at the perpetrators and our own government for doing nothing.

But the message of this book isn't about violence or atrocities or retribution or blame. It is about forgiveness, love, hope, prayer and God's loving kindness.

I can't recommend this book highly enough. I know I needed a shot in the arm to remind me of the bounteous blessings I have living in this country. Despite my concern about the Obama presidency and their blatant anti-life agenda, their smug arrogance regarding global warming and their socialistic ideas of big government, I have it pretty darned good. For starters, I can walk down the street without fear that my neighbors could chop me to pieces.

Another thing I loved about this book is how the author, Immaculée, immersed herself in prayer during her 91 day stay in a tiny bathroom with six other women. She learned to connect herself to God and He gave her the strength she needed to endure the tremendous hardships of her bathroom imprisonment as well as facing the heart-wrenching horrors of apocalyptic proportions during and after the genocide.

Don't let the forward by Dr. Wayne Dyer distract you from the amazing book. I was a little put-off by his description of Immaculee as "Divine" and his comparison of her to an Indian woman "who some believe is the Divine Mother."

Immaculée, (as her name suggests), is a devout Catholic, whose inspiring story speaks to all Christians, but especially to Catholics who can see in her story some glimpse of the lives of the saints. Surely there are a host of Rwandan martyrs looking down on us from heaven. After reading this story, I'm convinced among them must be the family of Immaculee and that she may be a living saint.

To read more about Immaculée, or to order the book, visit the website for her book here or her personal website here.
Profile Image for Kendra.
15 reviews3 followers
September 15, 2008
I have to be honest, I don't really want to read this book because it hurts my heart too much. I heard Immaculee speak at a banquet. I was captivated by her story (while I sobbed), and found myself marveling at how vastly different our life can be, even in our modern world. I recommend this book to everyone (even though I have not read it), because it is an unbeleiveable story. From what I have been told it is mildly graphic and horrific as she describes the massacre of her own family and the atrocities of the Rwandan genocides, but also inspiring as she describes the nightmare, how she survived it, and how she forgave and moved forward. Overall, it's a book about learning to forgive, and not letting hatred rule your life.
Profile Image for Brooke.
178 reviews13 followers
February 18, 2017
For all the books I have read in my lifetime, none have touched me and inspired me and challenged my faith as this one. The reality and really words Ilibagiza uses to describe the horror that affected an entire country startled me. I cried through every chapter. I thought of God on every page.

I'll never be the same after reading this book. Anyone who reads my review, read this book. Read it! Read it with a compassionate and open heart and your world will be changed.
Profile Image for Emily.
28 reviews2 followers
May 23, 2022
Everyone needs to read this book. What an amazing tale of the horrors of the Rwandan genocide and forgiveness. So incredible and uplifting to see someone endure all of that tragedy and evil and come out stronger and with a deeper relationship with God, and hear the story of how God led her through it all.
45 reviews1 follower
March 26, 2009
Plain an simple - She told the story the only way she could. For a reader like me, I was already vested in the political atrocities of Africa and I wanted the book to explore this further. How did Rowanda get into this situation? Why does colonialism break people down into various classes by education, skin tone, etc..?

Also, the blatant commercialization of the story. I enjoy a little Wayne Dyer from time to time, but holy crapshoot batman, they hijacked this story. Her faith had to be strong and clearly with the incidents that transpired.. she had to believe in something out of this world.

So, did I like the book? I'm glad she told the story, but I'm concerned for the unsuspecting soul who picks this up just to get a religious high. I just don't want people to think.. if you pray hard, have positive thinking.. things will work out for you. Clearly, many people died including her parents, brothers, little children (born and unborn)..Were they any less religious as Immaculee? for those who could, I'm sure they were just as religious and faithful has her..

I think Steve Erwin could have helped to tell this story better.
3 reviews1 follower
April 28, 2017
Lost, stuck and nowhere to run. This is what was happening to the Tutsi's in the country of Rwanda. Everywhere they looked there was the Hutu killers swiping at them with machetes and rifles. Immaculee Ilibagiza takes us through her 91 day journey of being hunted because of what she was; a Tutsi. Through her journey she discovered God, who got her through the 91 days of being trapped in a tiny bathroom with 6 other women.
Left to Tell would be a 4 out of 5 stars. It shows what she is feeling and I think that you can easily envision what is going on. Immaculee Ilibagiza writes her story as a movie. You can really picture what is going on and you can connect with her based on what she is feeling or how she uses her faith to keep her going. Publishers Weekly describes the book as “a precious addition to the literature that tries to make sense of humankind’s seemingly bottomless depravity and counterbalancing hope in an all-powerful, loving God”. I would take a star away because some parts of the book were bland or dry to read. I felt like i wanted to just skip ahead and just find out what happens next.
The ending of the book reminds me of my life a little. I have been through rough patches and all but I have lived in the moment and kept faith close to me. Immaculee cherishes her faith throughout the whole book and that is what keeps her going. I understand her because when you're going through a tough time in your life, you may feel like there's nothing left for you. I have felt this way before but I rethought about it and got through the tough time. Immaculee didn’t want to keep living at first when she knew her family died but she turned to God for help and he gave her what she needed to get through all of this. Immaculee's faith has been tested throughout the whole book but it isn't until the end where it is truly tested. Immaculee says “My soul was at war with itself”(Ilibagiza 196). Faith is a big and challenging aspect in this book and it needs to be known. I believe loyalty is also an important aspect of this book and in life. There is loyalty shown throughout this book. Immaculee's brother, Damascene, shows his loyalty by not telling the killers where Immaculee was hiding. He then died by staying loyal to his sister.The pastor and Immaculee show loyalty by keeping their fate trusted in God. the pastor didn’t tell anyone about him hiding Tutsi's in his bathroom until the time came for it and they had to leave.There is a theme of forgiveness when Immaculee and the other women leave the bathroom and while there in the bathroom. When Immaculee reunites with a family friend, Jean Paul, she says “The genocide is happening in people’s hearts...The killers are good people, but right now evil has a hold on their hearts”(Ilibagiza 144). Immaculee would like to forgive the soldiers and the killers for all that they did but finds this hard to do after seeing the many graves of the Tutsi's that have been killed. She figures out that she will need to leave Rwanda in order for her to heal from this massacre. Immaculee realizes that she wants revenge on the Hutu killers, but she knows that is the evil of the devil lurking around in her. She realizes that “the people who’s hurt my family had hurt themselves even more, and they deserved my pity”( Ilibagiza 197). She gets rid of the hate in her and turns to God. Even though Immaculee shows vengeance and hatred towards the Hutu killers, she turns to God and asks “Fill me with the power of Your love and forgiveness,”(Ilibagiza 196). This part clearly demonstrates the central message: anyone and anything can learn to forgive.
Immaculee relies on God when she needs it the most so she talks to him. At one point she says, “God, in the bible You said that You can do anything for anybody. Well, I am one of those anybodies and I need You to do something for me now”(Ilibagiza 78). Immaculee calls on God and hopes he hears her. God is her strength. The bible says “For we walk by faith, not by sight”(2 Corinthians 5:7). Immaculee does everything by her faith and not what she is seeing. The recurring theme in Left to Tell is to forgive and forget. Immaculee is saying “Thank you, God, for love that is beyond our understanding.’....From that night onward, my tears began to dry and my pain eased. I never agonized over the fate of my family. I accepted that I would always mourn and miss them, but I’d never spend another moment worrying about the misery they’d endured”(Ilibagiza 202). She is learning to forgive what happened to her family in the genocide but she will never forget.
I would recommend Left To Tell because it takes you through a journey of faith, courage, leadership and of never giving up.I feel like adults would enjoy Left To Tell more because it talks about wars and killings. Young adults or kids may think it is boring because of the wars and so they wouldn’t read it for fun or to learn or understanding they would just read it to read it. I would compare it to the modern day movies that have come out like “Patriot’s Day” or people like “Anne Frank”. Sometimes the best thing to do is forgive and forget.
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