Kibeho is a small village located in southwestern Rwanda. Our Lady’s apparitions in Kibeho, Rwanda, began on November 28, 1981, and ended on November 28, 1989. November 28, 1981 was a time of increasing tension between the Tutsi and Hutu groups. The apparitions occurred at Kibeho College, a secondary school for girls, and included an apocalyptic vision of Rwanda descending into violence and hatred which many believe foretold the 1994 genocide.
Over the course of the 1980s, the Virgin Mary appeared to three young women, identifying herself as Nyina wa Jambo (Kinyarwanda for “Mother of the Word”), which was synonymous with Umubyeyi W’Imana (“Mother of God”). The teenaged seers reported that the Virgin asked everyone to pray to prevent a terrible war. In the vision of August 19, 1982, they all reported seeing violence, dismembered corpses, and destruction.
The longest series of visions were attributed to Alphonsine Mumureke, who had received the initial vision shortly after her admittance into Kibeho High School in October 1981 after her primary education, and the last on November 28, 1989. Nathalie Mukamazimpaka was the next one to have visions, which lasted from January 1982 to December 3, 1983. These emphasised endless prayer and expiation, with the Virgin even instructing Mukamazimpaka to perform penances through mortification of the flesh. Marie Claire Mukangango, who had initially bullied Mumureke at school because of the visions, herself experienced apparitions which lasted from March 2 to September 15, 1982. The Virgin told Mukangango that people should pray the Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows to obtain the favour of repentance.
The visions may be regarded as an ominous foreshadowing of the Rwandan genocide, and particularly the second Kibeho Massacre in 1995. The school where the visions occurred became a place of slaughter during the Genocide as dozens of children were shot and hacked to death by Hutu terrorists. The visionaries had either fled the violence or were among the casualties of the Genocide. Marie Claire Mukangango and her husband were among those killed in the April 1995 massacre.
Nathalie Mukamazimpaka, one of the three visionaries of Kibeho recalls:
“Our Lady taught me to pray the Rosary Crown of the 7 Sorrows because she said that a tragedy was brewing in Rwanda. Our Lady asked us to change our lifestyle, to love the sacraments, to do penance, to pray without ceasing by reciting the Rosary of the 7 Sorrows for the conversion of the hearts of those who have departed from God, and to be humble in asking for forgiveness and in forgiving.”
Augustin Misago, the Bishop of Gikongoro, the diocese on which Kibeho depends, approved public devotion linked to the apparitions on 15 August 1988 (the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary) and declared their authenticity on 29 June 2001. He recalls the amazement and anxiety generated by the story of the visionaries:
“We realize now that the Rwandan tragedy had been foretold. But I remember that on August 15, 1982, on the feast of the Assumption, the visionaries, instead of seeing the Virgin full of joy, witnessed terrible, frightening visions of corpses from which sprang abundant streams of blood, left unburied on the hills. No one knew what these terrible images meant. Now we are able to interpret the events anew, and see that they were probably a vision of what happened in Rwanda and in the region of the Great Lakes where blood was flowing, in Burundi, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.”
The Bishop of Gikongoro added that Our Lady of Kibeho’s messages concern the whole world. “A conversion of hearts is needed.”
The Marian sanctuary at Kibeho was named “Shrine of “Our Lady of Sorrows” in 1992.
In her widely acclaimed book, Our Lady of Kibeho: Mary Speaks to the World from the Heart of Africa, author Immaculée Ilibagiza draws on her first-hand experiences, visiting the sites before and after the holocaust. There, she witnessed true miracles and had direct contact with the visionaries themselves. Her discoveries tell a powerful message of reconciliation, enlightenment and peace. This deeply personal and moving story is certain to help spread the message of love, hope and peace delivered in Kibeho throughout the world – a world desperately in need of Divine inspiration.
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