Rwanda genocide survivor shares her story with the Black Hills - KOTA Territory News

Rwanda genocide survivor shares her story with the Black Hills

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Immaculée Illibagiza Immaculée Illibagiza

A 3x4 - foot bathroom was home to eight women during the 1994 Rwanda Genocide. According to The Human Rights Council, 800,000 people died as the Hutu tribe hunted the Tutsi. But the women in that bathroom survived. 

Immaculée Illibagiza was one of those woman who spent 90 days in the bathroom.

High school students at St. Thomas More were required to read her book Left to Tell. "It was really an inspirational book that I ended up loving," said Claire Kirsch, an eighth grade student. "My new favorite book and very highly recommended in my word," said Kirsch. 

For friends Morgan Lantis and Claire Kirsch, Illibagiza's presentation in the St. Thomas More High School gymnasium Wednesday brought the story to life. "I don't know how she did it. I don't think I could have done it," said Lantis, also in the eighth grade.

Spending more than an hour, Illibagiza spoke to six schools, equaling 700 students, about how she found God while hiding and forgave those who killed her entire family and hunted her. "That really spoke to me because I don't think I could ever forgive someone like that, and from that point on I'm trying to just forgive people easier and just learn to love more," said Kirsch. 

A replica of the bathroom where Illibagiza spent 90 days was put in the St. Thomas More cafeteria to give students an idea of what it was like. Students crammed into the exact dimensions of bathroom and found it horrible. "We were in there for what, a minute? And it was already hot and smelly and stuff, and it was an uncomfortable," said Lantis. 

And that was with friends. "I did it with people that I know and enjoy being around and I just couldn't imagine doing it with people I don't know, I've never talked to before, I don't know their name," said Kirsch. "I just think that'd be hard."

Illibagiza spoke in Spearfish Tuesday and ends her tour of the Black Hills with a presentation Wednesday night at the Rushmore Civic Center.

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