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Rwandan Genocide Survivor Immaculée Ilibagiza to Deliver Wallenberg Lecture at ODU

Immaculée Ilibagiza, a survivor of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, will deliver the Marc and Connie Jacobson Raoul Wallenberg Humanitarian Lecture at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 20, in Old Dominion University's Webb Center.

Her talk, titled "Left to Tell: A Story of Peace, Hope and Forgiveness," is free and open to the public.

Born in Rwanda and trained as an electrical engineer, Ilibagiza is the author of the New York Times bestseller "Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust." The book is her harrowing account of the terrifying 91 days she spent hidden in a Hutu pastor's bathroom with seven other starving women while nearly 1 million ethnic Tutsi people were being slaughtered during the genocide. It also recounts the murders of Ilibagiza's family and how her Catholic faith helped her heal and forgive those who perpetrated the devastating violence that forever changed her life and her country.

Ilibagiza credits her faith for giving her the strength to survive the three months in hiding that left her weighing only 65 pounds and the courage to stare down a man armed with a machete who threatened to kill her before she finally escaped.

During her time in hiding, Ilibagiza taught herself English with only a Bible and a dictionary. Once freed, she secured a job with the United Nations and in 1998 immigrated to the United States.

She was recently featured in Michael Collopy's Architects of Peace project, which has honored such legendary figures as Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama.

Ilibagiza holds honorary doctoral degrees from the University of Notre Dame, Seton Hall University, Saint John's University, Walsh University and Sienna College. She has received numerous humanitarian awards, including the Mahatma Gandhi International Award for Reconciliation and Peace in 2007 and the Humanity's Team 2011 Spiritual Leadership Award. She was a recipient of the American Legacy's Women of Strength & Courage Award and a finalist as one of Belifnet.com's Most Inspiring People of the Year in 2006.

Ilibagiza has written additional books in recent years, including "Led by Faith: Rising from the Ashes of the Rwandan Genocide," "Our Lady of Kibe," "If Only We Had Listened" and "A Visit from Heaven."

The memory of one of the legendary figures of World War II, Raoul Wallenberg, lives on at ODU through the Raoul Wallenberg Humanitarian Lecture, which is part of the university's President's Lecture Series. The annual lecture is sponsored by the Marc and Connie Jacobson Philanthropic Foundation.

A Swedish businessman and diplomat, Wallenberg was one of the few who dared to defy the perpetrators of the Holocaust. He helped shelter several thousand Jews in "protected houses" that flew the flags of Sweden and other neutral countries. He also distributed food and clothing to Jewish prisoners at deportation trains and on "death marches" and even attempted to rescue some of them.

This article was posted on: March 13, 2012

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