Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Forgiveness dominates all other themes in this work. While hiding in the bathroom, Ilibagiza struggled to forgive the Hutu killers perpetuating the genocide. She struggled to forgive Pastor Murinzi for refusing to shelter her younger brother, reviling her father, and believing lies about her family, even as he protected her and the other women from certain death. After the gruesome sight of her older brother’s skull caused Ilibagiza to faint, she rode past Hutu homes fighting with herself not to let hate rule her heart. By comparing the Hutu killers to children, she was able to forgive them. She acknowledged that all people are God’s children and prayed for God to forgive the Hutu killers. When the genocide ended, she traveled to see the man who had murdered her father and was now imprisoned by the Tutsis in order to forgive him.

To achieve forgiveness, she prayed fervently throughout her time in the bathroom and after, achieving a new level of trust in God, even in the depths of misery. Indeed, Ilibagiza believed her survival depended on the Lord. She experienced direct revelations, with Jesus telling her in a dream that most of her family and friends would be dead when she left the bathroom but that she herself would be fine. She also believed God inspired her to ask Pastor Murinzi to conceal the bathroom door with his wardrobe. After moving on to the French refugee camp for Tutsis, she again relied on divine intervention to survive. The withdrawing French abandoned the remaining Tutsi refugees a mile from the nearest RFP camp, in the midst of a group of the Interahamwe, and Ilibagiza prayed that God would not let her and her thirty companions be slaughtered. When the entire party was safe with the Tutsi soldiers, another of the refugees told her to keep praying because the Interahamwe seemed frozen and unable to move while Ilibagiza went for help.

This work is important to the canon of Christian literature not only because it chronicles Ilibagiza’s survival against seemingly insurmountable odds but also because its message of forgiveness and faith utterly transcends the horrors of the genocide. Ilibagiza’s account contrasts the depths of human depravity with the heights of God’s love. She ultimately argues that only love can end hatred and only forgiveness can bring peace.