An amazing story of survival, forgiveness

March 12, 2009 | book review

So many times, as I was reading Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust, by Immaculée Ilibagiza with Steve Erwin, I had to remind myself that the book was not fiction, that it was all horribly, unbelievably true. Although I just happened to pick the book up because I’d seen a few mentions of it in various places, it turned out to be the perfect book to read during Lent. It is a story of incredible suffering and unshakable faith and unimaginable forgiveness — which is precisely what we’re supposed to be reflecting on during these forty days.

Left to Tell is the story of Immaculée’s miraculous survival while hiding in a tiny bathroom for 91 days with seven other Tutsi women while Hutu killers called her name just outside the bathroom door as they searched and searched for her for only one reason: to kill her. And not to kill her quickly, but to torture her and make her die the same kind of unspeakable death that almost her entire family and ONE MILLION Tutsis did during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

You need to read this book. Today. Now. Everyone needs to read this book because we need to remember what human beings are capable of when they choose evil over love, easy lies over hard truths. As I read Immaculée’s heart-rending story, I heard echoes of the mob shouting, “Crucify him,” 2,000 years ago. I saw flashes of images of Jews packed on trains headed to certain death at the hands of the Nazis. And I wondered, how do we allow this kind of senseless, shameful, systematic bruality to happen again and again throughout history? Where were the voices of reason? Where were we? On Good Friday, as we reflect on the Passion of our Lord, we cannot hide from the fact that we play a role in human suffering every time we remain silent in the face of injustice. Similarly, when you read Left to Tell, you will likely think back to where you were in 1994, where our country was in 1994, when the Tutsis were being exterminated, and grieve for a world that would allow this to go on unchecked and in plain sight.

This book, however, is not just a chronicle of death and suffering; it is the story of one woman’s ability to trust in God even when she had no obvious reason. Each night, when I put this book down before going to sleep, I would close my eyes and see Immaculée in that cramped bathroom — hungry, afraid, silent but always faithful. Her willingness to stare into the face of the man who killed her family and hunted her down and offer him forgiveness is a lesson in complete and total surrender to God. It is awesome and humbling and a stark reminder of just how radical the Gospel of Jesus is when we don’t try to water it down or soften it up.

I honestly cannot say enough good things about this book. Please read it. And please visit Immaculée’s website by clicking HERE.



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