Rwandan genocide survivor shares story with high school students

Immaculee Ilibagiza
Immaculee Ilibagiza
Immaculee Ilibagiza signs a copy of her book
Immaculee Ilibagiza signs a copy of her book

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A summer reading assignment was brought to life for the students at St. Joseph's Academy on Friday. The New York Times best-selling author of "Left to Tell" spoke about surviving the Rwandan genocide.

Months on end, hiding in tiny room with seven other people, afraid you'd be killed at any time - it sounds like a story from the Holocaust, but it was actually Immaculee Ilibagiza's life during the genocide in Rwanda.

"I just wanted to let people know, there is a chance for peace...for freedom in your matter who hurt you," said Ilibagiza.

Ilibagiza chronicled her survival in a booked called "Left to Tell". The juniors and seniors at St. Joseph's Academy read this past summer.

"You're taught about the Holocaust, and everyone goes 'It'll never happen again because it was so horrible.' But it happened again, and people let it happen again and I think that was what was the most shocking," said Rachael Giles, a senior.

While Ilibagiza's story was eye opening to most students, for one, the book brought back some painful memories.

"After the genocide in Rwanda happened, it went and happened in Congo. So, my grandfather was one of the military and got killed. So, we had to escape because they were looking for my family to kill us," said Elizabeth Kasonga whose family came to the U.S. a few years ago.

"I was encouraging her: write a book. She's such an articulate girl," said Ilibagiza. "You can feel her joy. She has overcome something. She still not living there. She can encourage other teenagers like her."

Ilibagiza says being able to talk with students like Elizabeth and her classmates is therapeutic for her and those who hear her story.

"People need to know, people have gone through it they can get up and smile and so I can overcome anything too. Because we are here to teach each other. We are family in the world," said Ilibagiza.

A woman who saw so much hate and evil in her country, spreading a message of love and forgiveness around the world.

Ilibagiza told the girls about her time at a Canadian film festival. She says while everyone was emotional about her story, she was star struck. She got to meet both Matt Damon and Brad Pitt.

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