A month or so ago,  Immaculée Ilibagiza was a guest on Sunday Night Live with Father Groeschel (EWTN, 7 PM).   Immaculée was a Tutsi in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide in which a million people are estimated to have been slaughtered. When she thought there was no hope of escape she says she heard a voice saying, “You’ve been praying all these years. You know he’s real. Why don’t you ask him to help you?” Faith arose in her and she prayed, “I trust you with all my heart. You are God Almighty and you are here.” Immaculée survived because she was hidden in a tiny bathroom with six other women for three months. Almost all of her family was killed.

Our Lady of Kibeho is Immaculée’s third book, but the first one I have read. She was eleven years old in Rwanda in the early 1980’s, a devout child in a Catholic family, when she first heard about the appearances of the Virgin Mary to the children in Fatima.   She took a girl friend and her little brother to pray the rosary on the top of a small mountain (imitating the three children at Fatima) and asked the Virgin to come to Rwanda. Mary didn’t appear and they soon gave up going to the mountain to pray. “Three weeks after Jeanette and I quit climbing he mountain to pray for the Virgin Mary to appear, my father arrived home from work and exclaimed in a loud voice that there had been a miracle in Rwanda.”

This was the beginning of a series of remarkable apparitions of Mary (and even Jesus) to teenage  children in Kibeho between 1981 and 1989. When Mary first appeared to 16-year-old Alphonsine in the school dining hall she identified herself with “I am the Mother of the Word”  (Nyina wa Jambo in their native language.)  In subsequent years she appeared to 7 other children, including one boy.

The thing I find most fascinating about the many apparitions in Kibeho is that they were recent, in-our-time happenings. There were microphones, tape recorders, and photographs. The apparitions were discussed on the radio and viewed by thousands. Though Immaculée did not personally go to Kibeho during  the apparitions, her father made frequent pilgrimages there and would bring home tapes. “As long as I live I will never forget the moment the Virgin Mary appeared to Alphonsine,” my father vowed to my mother, my brothers, and me. The girl was reciting a Hail Mary when her body suddenly convulsed, as if a jolt of electricity shot through her, yet the look on her face was one of total love. Her eyes were transfixed, locked on the sky, and brimming with tears of happiness. I knew she had to be looking at the Virgin-–nothing else could have created that expression.”   They talked together for a couple of hours, Alphonsine sang, danced, and “when she finished singing, Alphonsine fell flat on her face like a sack of stones,” Dad said.

Another time the Virgin told Alphonsine she was going on a journey over night during which she would seem to be dead.   Alphonsine left instructions that though she might appear to be dead she was not to be buried.   Examiners concluded that “the young woman was alive, but barely. Her pulse rate was impossibly slow, her blood pressure was low, and her breathing virtually non-existent.” They were unable to move her and her limbs “were so locked in position that if she hadn’t been breathing the nurse would have concluded that rigor mortis had set in.”  Eighteen hours later Alphonsine got up and went about her daily life. She said she was shown heaven, hell and purgatory.

And this is just a little about one of the visionaries!

You can imagine that over eight years with eight visionaries there are many stories and many messages. The Virgin asked people to repent, to pray the Rosary and the Seven Sorrows of our Lady, to build a shrine, and, of course, to follow her Son.

One seer reported a vision of what would happen in Rwanda if people would not believe and heed her messages — “people killing each other, blood running, fire burning on the hill, mass graves, beheaded bodies, skulls put apart.” A decade later, in 1994, a terrible civil war broke out in Rwanda in which millions were killed with machetes and the bodies dumped in the Kagera river.  Rampant AIDS was the result of the promiscuity the Virgin had warned about.

Seer Marie Claire received the message that the world  is at “the edge of catastrophe” because it has turned against God.

It was not until after the war the Catholic Church approved the first three visionaries (Alphonsine Murmureka, Nathalie Mukamazimpaka, and Marie Claire Mukangango.)   On 29 June 2002 in a 23-page report after study by both a medical and theological commission it was the judgement of
the Bishop Augustin Misago of Gikongoro, Rwanda, that “nothing that they said or did during the apparitions is contrary to Christian faith and morals. Their message is in conformity with the Sacred Scripture and the living Tradition of the Church.”

One of the original three visionaries, Nathalie Mukamazimpaka, now a cloistered nun, is seen in this present day video.

Kibeho today

There is just so much information available that I am not at all content with this sketchy blogpost about these little known apparitions in Africa.   There is much more to be found on the internet.   Too, I need to emphasize that Catholics are not obliged to accept such apparitions as from God regardless of their approval by church authority.

Immaculée Ilibagiza’s previous books are Led by Faith: Rising from the Ashes of the Rwanda Genocide and Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst
the Rwandan Holocaust
(both with Steve Irwin). She was born in Rwanda and studied electronic and mechanical engineering at the National University.   She emigrated to the United States, worked at the United Nations in New York City and has been awarded the 2007 Mahatma
Gandhi International Award for Reconciliation and Peace. She is now a full-time public speaker and writer and has established the Left to Tell Charitable Fund to help support Rwandan orphans.

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Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. — 1 Corinthians 13.1