Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Left to Tell

Left to Tell is a remarkable story told by a young woman survivor of the Rwandan genocide. Immaculee Ilibagiza, a young college woman from the village of Kibuye states "This is my story, told as I remember it ... and I remember it as though it happened yesterday. It's a true story; I use my own name and the names of my family."

This is the story of how Immaculee survived certain death, along with seven other women, by hiding in a very small (4'x6') bathroom for more than 3 months. Day after day, for months, the killers would search nearby - gleefully chanting "kill them big, kill them small, kill them, kill them, kill them all!" "This is the story of how I discovered God during one of history's bloodiest holocausts. I wrote this book hoping that others may benefit from my story."(introduction)

While Immaculee tells an intensely personal story of great tragedy and loss, her experience also brings to light issues that impact the lives of most people - family, ethnic identity, and faith. In 1994 over one million (note that - 1,000,000!) Tutsi's were killed in Rwanda during that 3 month period. They were hewn down not with bombs,gunfire, or gas chambers but with machetes; up close and personal; by their neighbors and friends. All because of their tribal name and ethnicity. It has been called the "Machete Season", it was ignored and once again genocide reared its ugly head - but this time during MY lifetime.

Immaculee shares her soul's struggle from disbelief to anger and rage and, ultimately, forgiveness. I read in near disbelief at the atrocities she experienced and then continued to read how she progressed and ultimately forgave( and continues to forgive!) I learned so many lessons, new thoughts and ideas became a part of me; ones that I need to put into play in my life. Thoughts have come to me prompted by the book and discussions with others:

  • Every person has an innate desire to be treated as a person of worth.
  • One person can make a difference – for better or for worse.
  • Ethnic, racial, and national identities can be a source of pride but also a source of prejudice.
  • Conflicts always have unintended consequences and the innocent and helpless are always victims,whether intentionally or unintentionally.
  • Evil leaders can manipulate good people into performing terrible deeds.
  • Great suffering can bring about personal growth and deeper faith.
  • Hope and forgiveness can co-exist with despair and seemingly hopeless circumstances.
On Sunday I was to share a part of this book during a lesson. I read with a purpose in mind, one of teaching and studying the Power of Forgiveness. I read more quickly than I would have liked to and since I borrowed this book from a friend I was intensely sad to have to return it. Now I feel the need to race to my bookstore to buy several copies, not just to keep for myself but to press them into the hands of those I love and care about. This is a mind altering and hopefully life-affecting book!


Susan said...

I gave a lesson to the YW on forgiveness last Sunday. It included Corrue Ten Boom's story about forgiving one of the Nazi guards that had held her hostage at a concentration camp. It's such a powerful story. Sounds like this book is also. I'm adding it to my TBR pile.

Kim said...

I have seen this book a couple of other places and it always catches my eye. It sounds like a very intense but very worthwhile read. Thanks for the wonderful and interesting review.

Jenners said...

Wow! What a powerful book and a fantastic review. I can't even imagine the horror this story involves ... or the courage to survive and to have the strength to forgive. I suspect I am not as good a person.

And on a lighter note, you won a copy of the book "Do-Over" by Robin Hemley in my giveaway! If you'll e-mail me your address, I'll get the book in the mail to you right away. Thanks!