“I heard the killers call my name. A jolt of terror shot through me, why did they call out my name- how did they know I was here? Were they coming to the bathroom? … They were yelling at the pastor, accusing and threatening him. ‘Where is she?’ Find her… find Immaculée. ‘I have killed 399 cockroaches, Immaculée will make 400. It’s a good number to kill.'”*
During the 1994 Rwandan genocide, Immaculée and seven other women hid in a tiny bathroom (approximately four feet long and three feet wide). After seven weeks of extreme discomfort and very little food, Immaculée weighed only 75 pounds. A pretty, vibrant and intelligent 22 year old college student was now anything but a pretty sight. She had not showered in all her time in the bathroom for fear that others in the Pastor’s household who were loyal to the Hutu militants would discover their hiding place. Her skin was pale, her lips were cracked and her gums were swollen.
The great intensity of the experience- concern for family members and fear of the brutality with which the Hutu militants killed women pushed everything superficial aside. Immaculée devoted herself to prayer and meditation during her time in the bathroom and despite her physical filth, she never felt more beautiful. Her spirit was wide open to the ray of Divine love and beauty which constantly surrounds us because she possessed two key requisites; purity of thought and humility.
Purity– In her first weeks of hiding, she hated the Hutu militants for their senseless and brutal actions but later realized that her prayers could not reach the throne of The Almighty Father with a heart full of hatred. She struggled for days in prayer for the strength to forgive these misguided men and was finally able to see them as foolish children who did not understand the terrible harm they were inflicting on themselves and others. She prayed that they recognize their horrific actions and are able to atone for them before their time on earth came to an end.
Humility– Drastic events such as genocides, tsunamis etc. often remind us of our smallness and even for just a moment our conceit and belief in our own pseudo-knowledge recedes. They say the wise man is one who knows that he knows nothing, why is this? Probably because he understands that he can receive no real knowledge without first emptying himself of all that he thinks he knows.
Only through her purity and humility was Immaculée’s able to receive of the Primordial Light of The Creator which instills inner calmness and confidence. She ended up spending 3 months in the bathroom before being rescued.
* Ilibagiza, Immaculée. Left to Tell. Hay House, 2006. Print