Best of Freshman Writing
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Immaculée Ilibagiza: A True Hero
Mrs. Ilibagiza grew up in Rwanda under the care of a loving and educated family. Unfortunately, her country had long been divided between two major native groups, the Hutus and Tutsis, and Mrs. Ilibagiza and her family belonged to the latter. As social and political unrest continued to grow in 1994, the Hutus began to mercilessly annihilate the Tutsi people. This forced Mrs. Ilibagiza to leave her family and enter a period of living hell. Along with seven other women, Mrs. Ilibagiza spent three entire months in the bathroom of the home of a nearby priest. This bathroom measured roughly twelve square feet. She and her fellow neighbors lived in silence during the entire stay, for fear of being heard by Hutu henchmen. The women ate only the remains of food and nearly starved to death. Mrs. Ilibagiza herself lost nearly fifty pounds. Incredibly, the entire experience strengthened her faith in God (Ilibagiza).
During this time of hiding, Mrs. Ilibagiza turned towards prayer and faith as outlets of hope for the future. She constantly prayed the rosary and even taught herself English (Ilibagiza). Eventually, a rebel Tutsi army began to overtake the Hutus, and Mrs. Ilbagiza was able to leave her bathroom prison. Nevertheless, her suffering continued as all but one of her immediate family members, a brother who was not in Rwanda at the time, was brutally murdered by the Hutus, often by the claws of a machete. Despite this horrific genocide, Mrs. Ilibagiza was able to persevere and turn a negative situation into a positive one. She obtained a job with the United Nations, married and immigrated to the United States, and even forgave her family’s murderers, in person (Ilibagiza).
Mrs. Ilibagiza is an incredibly admirable person for countless reasons. Her trust in God during her ordeal is the ultimate example of faith, something that almost all people struggle with under less demanding circumstances. The mental and physical strength required to survive under such pressing conditions is a testament to Mrs. Ilibagiza’s determination. Her ability to forgive the very people who massacred her family and nearly destroyed her life is nearly equitable to that of Jesus Christ himself. Most importantly, Mrs. Ilibagrza took a horrible, inexplicable situation and has used it to make the world a better place. She continues to scale the globe and speak of the importance of faith and world peace. In addition, she has created the Left to Tell Charitable Fund (LTTCF). This charity provides orphans in Rwanda, including those directly affected by the 1994 genocide, with educational assistance (Ilibagiza). Thus, Mrs. Ilibagiza is using education to help improve people’s lives and to prevent another massacre like the one that tore apart her homeland.
Today, it seems that priorities are often misplaced; however, the majority of human beings understand what it truly means to be brave and tough. And Immaculée Ilibagiza is the perfect example of both qualities. She starved in a cramped bathroom just to survive, built her faith and forgiveness, and now continues to improve the world. That is bravery, that is toughness, that is honor. And that is what it truly means to be a hero.
Ilibagiza, Immaculée. “About Immaculée .” Immaculée . 2010. Web. 7 Feb 2010.
<http ://ww.immaculee.com/index.php?view=article&id=1 >.
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