(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Left to Tell, a firsthand account of the Rwandan genocide, describes Immaculée Ilibagiza’s experience of being one of the few members of the Tutsi tribe to avoid being massacred at the hands of the Hutu tribe in 1994. It also is a spiritual guidebook, offering inspiration from tragedy, and demonstrates how faith in God can give strength when hope would otherwise die.

Ilibagiza begins her account by discussing her childhood, explaining that she did not know she was a Tutsi, or even what a Tutsi was, until she went to school, where she encountered the government’s ethnic roll calls and a teacher who would turn out to be one of the most malignant haters of her tribe. She explains that the Hutu government’s ethnic balance, which ensured that most of the jobs and scholarships went to the majority Hutu population, nearly prevented her from going past the eighth grade. Her father had to sell two cows to pay for two years of private school tuition before she was finally awarded a high school scholarship. After high school, she also won a scholarship to attend a university, where she was studying in 1994 when the Hutu president was killed while trying to make peace with the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RFP), a Tutsi militia attempting to overthrow the government and back social equality bring to the country.

Ilibagiza had gone home to celebrate Easter with her Catholic family when the president’s plane was shot down and the extremist Hutu government swerved from its peace efforts and began massacring the Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The United Nations removed peacekeeping troops, and the international community turned a blind eye for three months while nearly one million Tutsis were killed, often with machetes. Ilibagiza’s father was a community leader, and people looked to him for safety when the killing began, but he refused to believe the government was behind the massacre, which was largely carried out by a group calling itself the Interahamwe. He was murdered when he went to ask for help from a Hutu official who had once been his friend....

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(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Sources for Further Study

Dallaire, Roméo, and Brent Beardsley. Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda. Toronto: Random House Canada, 2003. Ilibagiza mentions Dallaire’s heroic refusal to withdraw when the United Nations pulled out peacekeeping forces. He here recounts his experiences during the genocide.

Fisanick, Christina, ed. The Rwanda Genocide. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2004. Essays discussing the socioeconomic factors precipitating the genocide and Rwanda’s social and economic condition after.

Hatzfeld, Jean. Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak—A Report. Translated by Linda Coverdale. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005. Interviews with and an analysis of the behaviors of nine of the Hutu killers. Suggests genocide can be perpetuated by ordinary individuals.

Melvern, Linda. A People Betrayed: The Role of the West in Rwanda’s Genocide. New York: Zed Books, 2006. Developed nations refused to acknowledge the genocide and allowed it to continue. Melvern analyzes this refusal and places it in context.

Prunier, Gérard. The Rwanda Crisis: History of a Genocide. New York: Columbia University Press, 1995. Overview of Rwandan culture prior to the genocide and analysis of the first months following.