Skip to main content

Rwandan Holocaust Survivor Immaculée Ilibagiza to Speak at Villanova

Author of this year’s One Book Villanova program selection, Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust, shares her story

Jan. 16, 2008

VILLANOVA, PA. – In 1994, college student Immaculée Ilibagiza and seven other women survived the Rwandan genocide by huddling silently together in a cramped bathroom for 91 days, while killers loomed just outside the door.

On Tuesday, January 29 at 7:30 pm, Ilibagiza will share her experiences with the community when Villanova University hosts “An Evening with Immaculée Ilibagiza”, the cornerstone event of the 2007-08 One Book Villanova Program. The event, which will be held in The Pavilion, is free and open to the general public. Doors will open at 6:30pm for general admission seating. No tickets are required.

“One Book Villanova” is a distinctive educational program that engages all segments of the campus community – students, staff and faculty – in reading, reflecting and discussing together one designated book. The 2007-08 One Book selection, Ilibagiza’s Left To Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust, is the stirring account of how the power of prayer and a firm educational foundation enabled Ilibagiza to survive the holocaust that claimed the lives of most of her family.

This year’s One Book is particularly fitting given its messages of Catholic faith, service and community, all of which are central to Villanova’s foundational principles.

In 1994, Rwanda descended into genocide following the death of the country’s president. During a three-month killing spree, extremists murdered nearly a million Rwandans. In Left to Tell, Ilibagiza describes how discovering the power of prayer and developing a closer a relationship with God saved her from almost certain death during her months in hiding. She also credits her education as a student at the National University of Rwanda as a major factor in her survival.

Ilibagiza emerged from her ordeal having discovered the ability to love unconditionally, eventually seeking out and forgiving her family’s killers. Believing she was spared in order to inspire others through her story, she today travels the world recounting how faith and forgiveness restore meaning to life.

Ilibagiza has appeared on CBS’ 60 Minutes, and her story has been made into a documentary titled “The Diary of Immaculée.” In addition, she has been recognized with numerous humanitarian awards including The Mahatma Gandhi International Award for Reconciliation and Peace (2007) and American Legacy's Women of Strength & Courage Award.

As part of Villanova’s One Book festivities on Jan. 29, Villanova Dining Services will present a community dinner celebration, “Tastes of Rwanda”, in the Dougherty Dining Hall from 5:00-7:00 p.m. The event is open to the public at a cost of $7.50. The menu will feature a number of African specialties.

Villanova University is a co-educational Roman Catholic institution founded by the Order of Saint Augustine in 1842. The University offers a wide variety of undergraduate and graduate degree programs through four colleges: the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, and the College of Nursing, as well as the Villanova Law School. With a total enrollment that surpasses 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students, Villanova is the oldest and largest Catholic university in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. For more information see