How much do you know about Our Lady’s apparition in 1980s Africa?
1. Our Lady of Kibeho is the name given to Our Blessed Mother as she appeared at Kibeho, a small village in Rwanda. It is one of the few Vatican-approved Marian apparitions and the only one in Africa.
2. The Blessed Virgin Mary appeared many times to three school girls from Kibeho, Alphonsine, Anathalie and Marie Claire. Mary appeared to Alphonsine first on 28th November, 1981. But no one believed she had really seen and spoken to Our Lady. She was ridiculed and bullied mercilessly by the students and staff, particularly by fellow student Marie Claire Mukangango who said she was possessed by demons and a witch.
3. Alphonsine begged Our Mother to appeared to another girl in the school. That girl was Anathalie Mukamazimpaka and slowly, more people began to believe. Finally, in the strangest twist of all, she appeared to Marie Claire herself.
4. When she first appeared, Mary called herself Nyina wa Jambo, the Mother of the Word. All three visionaries described her as the most beautiful woman. Her skin was neither white nor black and she radiated a warm, glowing, motherly love. Marie Claire said that she could describe her beauty; simply that “her beauty is as great as her love for her children.”
5. Doctors were mystified by the visionaries. When they saw Our Lady, they could only see her and didn’t respond to any outside stimulus. During their visions, the girls were hit and tugged but they never reacted.
5. The message of Our Lady of Kibeho was a simple one of love and repentance. Love God and love others. Be kind to one another, pray sincerely, repent of your sins, be humble and forgive each other. She told the visionaries to pray the Rosary and particularly the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows.
6. But Our Lady also showed the three girls horrific visions of what would happen if the people did not repent. On 19th August, 1982, all three saw dreadful visions of death, violence, blood, fire and destruction. They saw rivers of blood, piles of severed human heads, people chopping and hacking at each other, and a valley filled with a million rotting, headless corpses.
7. The visions stopped for Alphonsine on 28th November, 1989, eight years after they had begun. For both Anathalie and Marie Claire, they had ended much earlier in 1983. In the meantime, other visionaries appeared claiming to see Mary and even Jesus. These, however, have not (yet?) been approved by the Church.
8. In 1994, the visions the three schoolgirls saw came to pass in the Rwandan Genocide. Over three months, up to a million Rwandans were killed by their neighbours, friends and even family members. Most of those killed were Tutsis, who were a minority in Rwanda but had been privileged under the previous Belgian colonial rule of Rwanda. But people from both groups, Tutsi and Hutu, were killed. The rivers did run with blood, bodies were chopped to pieces, and corpses lay on the rotting on the ground with no one to bury them.
9. Kibeho itself was not spared during the genocide. It was the site of a massacre where about 5,000 refugees were killed, some in the very church built to honour Our Lady of Kibeho. Among those killed at Kibeho was Marie Claire Mukangango.
10. Today, Kibeho has been restored. But bones still lie in the soil where the flowers grow. The shrine at Kibeho is dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows. God willing, it will be a place of repentance, of peace and of healing for Rwanda and for all people.
11. The best known ‘apostle’ of Our Lady of Kibeho is Immaculée Ilibagiza, a Rwandan Catholic. A Tutsi, she survived the genocide by hiding in a pastor’s bathroom for three months. Her father, mother, and two brothers were killed. Today, she speaks about the grace and forgiveness of God and devotion to Our Lady. She shared her story in Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust, and has also written about the the Rosary and of course, Our Lady of Kibeho.
O Holy Mary,
Our Lady of Sorrows,
teach us to understand the value of the Cross in our lives.
By offering our sufferings to His,
help us to complete in our own flesh what is lacking
in the sufferings of Christ in His mystical body,
which is the Church.