Catholic Book Review: Left to Tell by Immaculée Ilibagiza


Review by Idowu Okunzua

Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust
by Immaculée Ilibagiza

Boldness, hope, determination, hard work, wittiness and trust in God all woven together in Left to Tell, a chronicle of a young woman’s survival during the 1994 Rwandan holocaust. The book left me with so much to tell … so much about how the beginnings make a big difference forever, how God moves to save and to do seemingly impossible things in response to childlike faith and embrace of his love, how far hatred would go unless quenched by love …

Immaculée Ilibagiza’s approach to telling her story was so simple yet so intense. I knew she made it through the genocide because it is the only way she could have told her story. Nonetheless, with the severity of the situation, I got really scared that cruel death might embrace her. The contradiction of opposites present through the book was intriguing but startling.

From a pleasant and secured life, she moved into a life of oddities that challenged virtually everything she was raised to value. She saw friendships enveloped by hatred and hatred enveloped by friendships.

As I experienced love conquering hatred, I hated to get to the last page so I read the last few pages over three days. Those became three days of sober reflection, of questions about how I am living, loving and forgiving, of my steadfastness in praying and hoping, of reassessing my dependence on God and the depth of my faith especially when my environment speaks negativity and hopelessness.

Encouraged by Immaculee’s proximity to God in the most remote places and in very difficult circumstances, I am more sensitive to God’s abiding presence as well as to his open arms of love. The words that nothing is impossible for those who believe have a different meaning to me and I am poised to knock, knowing that the door will be open for me. Left to Tell shows that the keys to the heart that loves and forgives are not lost to hatred and vengeance. Pain hurts badly, but love cures benevolently.

As I work on creating Paradise for my children, personalizing and praying the word of God has become an important element. It is not about reading the word of God, it is about knowing it, feeling it and believing it. Immaculee believed God’s word that she would not die, she prayed it, reminded God of his promise and lived to tell of God’s faithfulness to his word – the word of God offering forgiveness to those who forgive others, waits to be believed, prayed and experienced as we seek peace in the world.

Mrs. Okunzua holds a doctorate degree in education and is a leadership coach in a Fortune 10 corporation. She and her family are members of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parish in Bakersfield.

Immaculée Ilibagiza will be appearing at St. Patrick’s Parish in Merced, California on February 27, 2010.  Visit the St. Patrick’s website for ticket information and additional details.

Reprinted from Central California Catholic Life by permission


About Author

Lisa M. Hendey is the founder and editor of and the bestselling author of the Chime Travelers children's fiction series, The Grace of Yes, The Handbook for Catholic Moms and A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms. As a board member and frequent host on KNXT Catholic Television, Lisa has produced and hosted multiple programs and has appeared on EWTN and CatholicTV. Hendey hosted “Catholic Moments” on Radio Maria and is the technology contributor for EWTN’s SonRise Morning Show. Lisa's articles have appeared in Catholic Digest, National Catholic Register, and Our Sunday Visitor. Hendey travels internationally giving workshops on faith, family, and Catholic technology and communications topics. She was selected as an Elizabeth Egan Journalism Fellow, attended the Vatican Bloggers Meeting, the “Bishops and Bloggers” meeting and has written internationally on the work of Catholic Relief Services and Unbound. Hendey lives with her family in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Visit Lisa at for information on her speaking schedule or to invite her to visit your group, parish or organization.

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