Immaculée Ilibagiza invites all to experience power of prayer and forgiveness

by Kristina Lahr | New Earth


International author and speaker, Immaculée Ilibagiza will be leading a retreat at St. Anthony's Church in Fargo on May 4-5. There she will share her testimony of prayer and forgiveness after enduring the horrors of the Rwandan genocide in 1994.(submitted photo)

As a young Catholic woman in 1994, Immaculée Ilibagiza hid for 91 days with seven other women in a 12 square foot bathroom. Meanwhile, Rwandan Hutus killed most of her family and nearly one million Rwandan Tutsis out of racial hatred. The bathroom was concealed in a room behind a wardrobe in the home of a Hutu pastor.

In that bathroom, Immaculée recalls praying 27 rosaries and 40 Divine Mercy chaplets a day.

Now Immaculée travels internationally to lead retreats and share how her faith guided her through her ordeal and led her to eventually forgive her family’s killers.

“One of my desires is that people know that God is part of their daily lives,” she said in an interview with New Earth. “He’s in the middle of peril, tears, and war. I want to share my prayers, my struggles to forgive, and the human experience.”

Immaculée will be leading a retreat at St. Anthony's Church in Fargo on May 4-5. There she will share her life story and touch on many vital themes such as the power of prayer and the power of forgiveness. She promises, “No one will leave this retreat the same as when they came.”

Thirteen years prior to the genocide in Rwanda, Mary appeared to eight young people in the village of Kibeho, Rwanda. Mary warned about the violence to come. However, if the Rwandans opened their hearts to God and embraced his love, the devastation could be averted. Our Lady of Kibeho is now the first and only Vatican-approved Marian site in Africa.

“The rosary is the greatest weapon in the world,” said Immaculée. “Mary told the people of our country that what happened wouldn’t have happened if we would have prayed the rosary.”

Mary especially encouraged praying the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows, which helps us to meditate on the passion of Jesus and the great sorrows of his mother. The structure of the prayer is similar to a rosary. One meditates on Mary’s seven sorrows: Simeon announces to Mary that a sword will pierce her heart, the escape to Egypt, the disappearance of the child Jesus in Jerusalem, Mary meets Jesus carrying the cross, Mary at the foot of the cross, Mary receives the inanimate body of her son, and the burial of Jesus

“The more you think about our Lady, the more you think about your own pain and sufferings and you slowly bring those sorrows to God,” said Immaculée. “It’s a sad experience yet helps you understand God’s love and makes you feel so light.”

More than anything, Immaculée wants everyone to understand the power of forgiveness in a personal and practical way. Through God’s grace, she was able to forgive those who committed the worst of crimes. God can help us to forgive anyone if we humble ourselves enough to ask for his help.

“The power of forgiveness is real. I went through hell. If you are holding anything against a friend, coworker, or family member, work through the obstacles and doubts. It’s such a gift to forgive. Pray that the grace to forgive may flow through you. Like scripture says, prayer moves mountains. As much as we eat to feed our bodies, we should pray all the more to feed our souls.”

Immaculée assures that her retreat is for everyone, both adults and children. Everyone can benefit from the message of the power of prayer and forgiveness.

“I’m only a messenger, all credit goes to God,” she said. “There’s a great hope that comes out through these speeches. Many people find the strength to forgive. I’ve had people come up to me and say that they called their mom or dad for the first time in 20 years. They laughed and cried and it was over. I’ve seen many miracles of forgiveness like this one.

“But more than anything, I’ve seen people be fired up about prayer. They realize there’s nothing impossible with God. It’s like they really believe in God again.”

To register for Immaculee’s retreat, go to For more information, contact Joe Hendrickx at or (701) 237-6063.