Immaculee Ilibagiza Faith, Hope & Forgiveness

Immaculee Ilibagiza received an honorary doctorate for Duquesne University on April 3. She then spoke for 1.5 hours on “A Story of Faith, Hope & Forgiveness”. 

Here’s a semi-summary email I sent to my sister: 

she had a lot of good points about suffering and loving and choosing love -even in the worst and most lonely situation you are never alone; God is with you. It was beautiful — though also in trying to convey her message to you or others I’m sure some would be lost in translation. her emotions were very strong and raw.

she was also funny – just saying things about her prayer; reflecting a strong inner-monologue with God and how uncomfortable it was to realize that God knows all of our thoughts, not just those we explicitly pray. and also that if you don’t have something like forgiveness then pray to have that God helps you have that thing.  

we get today. we don’t know if we get to have tomorrow. pray to God to give you what you need today. then if you make it to tomorrow pray for Him to give you what you need that day. and live as though you only get to have today – do you choose love and heaven or do you choose evil?

Here are my notes:

note: in these typed up notes I do jump from first person to third person depending on the note; so fyi there is inconsistency of voice. i’m sure you can deal with it. 

Immaculee Ilibagiza’s Message on Faith, Hope, & Forgiveness: 

We learn so much from suffering; if we don’t hide from it. If you accept it. It is a high price but you learn a lot:

  1. The importance of forgiveness. It feels like peace, joy, a gift to self. I begged God to smile again; I don’t have to be bitter or hate them.
  2. The power of love – failure to love one another causes all problems; clarity on that is important.
  3. A gift to accept that God is real – there is hope, all things are possible. Those who have faith have treasure.

God has a way of preparing us for when things come.

If we buy into other people’s self interest or propaganda then we don’t love

Be grateful for the people you have; you don’t know when they’ll go – 1 hour, 1 day, 1 year?

“Grateful to have met you”

Her father was well respected and many came seeking his guidance in the early hours of the genocide. He was honest and told them that “We might die. But it is a chance to repent. Let’s repent so we can go to heaven.” – Knowledge that you would likely die soon was freeing to focus on repenting.

Complaining doesn’t help. If it is to go so it will go so.

Find things to thank God for.

If you don’t have heart and values then knowledge will mislead you

The worst moment of my life but the best for my soul

Confusion – moment of choice – the bad voice or the good voice – asked God for a sign that He is real – “Don’t let them come into the bathroom today” – and they didn’t. 300-400 soldiers surrounded the house and searched it; room by room, even looking in suitcases for babies. But when they got to the door the man paused with his hand on the knob and said to the Pastor “I know you are a good man. I know you wouldn’t hide anyone.” so he didn’t open the door.

Realizing God can hear my thoughts and prayers – He hears everything! No privacy!

The bad was so bad; created anger in her heart. But she spoke her anger to God. He didn’t say “Don’t be angry”; she started praying “Focus on who I am”.

“Why if there is so much suffering did you create us?” = Love.

Why do I focus on life on earth when it is a blink compared to heaven and eternity? How do I get there?

Bible – Forgiveness – It is hard. 77 times; love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Prayer brought peace; it felt good; it was selfish.

For awhile she skipped the “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” when praying the Our Father. Prayer ceased feeling good. She knew if it was a man-made prayer, or even from the Pope she could have found a way to argue that it didn’t need to be in the prayer. But this prayer was how Jesus told her to pray to God. Then one day the voice in her heart said “When you pray mean every word. Pray it from the heart.” – She added it back in; prayed each word and prayer slowly — said “Our Father” then thought about what “Our Father” means for awhile. — Sincerity in prayer changes everything! If you don’t have sincerity pray for sincerity.

“Our Father” – My father and their father. She thought of her father — if one of her brothers was bad her dad didn’t ignore them rather he focused more attention on them.

I don’t have to know it is possible; it is possible because it’s God.  

Surrender, put it in His hands. “I can’t forgive. It’s in your hands.”

She heard in her heart Jesus’ words from the cross “Forgive them Father. They know not what they do.” –They know not what they do. She started to pity them for the day they would realize what they did; this led to forgiveness.

The people on the side of love have suffered and know hate. But they stand up for love, peace, justice, and truth.

Those on the side of love think that those on the side of hate can come to love.

Do not think you are alone; with God you have everything – truth and love.

You can use your life for good or bad. You don’t know how long it will be. Choose love.

Ask for what you need today. He’s still there tomorrow and if you are still there tomorrow ask Him for what you need that day.

Listen to others with love and care. Show kindness. Use what you have. You don’t have to have money, power, etc – you can listen, love, and care.

Do what we can individually. Just do your part. Just do your part and wait for God for the next part.  

Story about how her book came to be published – Asked often how she could still smile despite the genocide. Wrote the book in 3 weeks. Edited the book for 3 months. Printed it out and told God “There I did my part”. Within 3 days met the person who would help her get her book published (stood in a line she saw that formed; realized 10 people to go it was to have some man sign his book; didn’t want to look crazy so bought the book and waited her turn; the man asked about her accent, her experience, said “How can you still smile after all that? You should write a book! If you do I will get it published.” – Exchanged phone numbers. She waited to call – the voice of doubt was strong. After a few days she did call, the man asked “Why did it take you so long to call?! For some reason I really care about this.” — and he helped her get the book published. It took 8 months. Within 2 weeks of publication it was on the NYT Best Sellers list. It has been translated into different languages and people contact her with stories like “Your dad makes me want to be a better dad.” — Love has a way of continuing on.


(My mom and I sat just 4 rows back. Thank goodness we weren’t any farther away as my old cellphone camera could barely handle taking a picture of her even though she was only 20 feet away! It was so nice to be so close to such an inspiring woman!)

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