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One Woman Play Tells Story of Rwandan Genocide

  • Paige Kollock

A play called "Miracle in Rwanda" recently finished playing at a theater in New York. It tells the tragic story of the Rwandan genocide in 1994 when Hutu extremists massacred some 800,000 people during a three-month killing spree. The victims were mainly Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Paige Kollock reports on the play, a Rwandan woman's determination to survive and the decision by an American actress to bring that story to the stage.

Thirteen years ago, a young woman, , found herself caught in the middle of the Rwandan genocide. A member of the Tutsi tribe, she hid in a hidden bathroom in the home of her pastor with seven other women to escape being murdered by Hutu rebels. Now her story is being told in a theatrical play.

It is performed by just one actress, Leslie Lewis Sword, who met Immaculée Ilibagiza and decided to write a one-woman show about her experience. "Being in a bathroom with seven other women for 91 days, while killers searched the house every day, and hearing that she got through that, and got closer to God in that process and I thought, 'Oh my God, I have to be part of telling that story.'"

During the one-hour play, Leslie Lewis Sword acts out dozens of different characters of various age, gender and background. In one moment, she is a French general, the next, a rebel leader. She even plays the role of God.

She portrays Ilibagiza's journey from anger to fear to forgiveness. IIlibagiza slowly realizes, after the murder of her family, that God and faith are the only things that will save her. "What's so important for me about this story is, it's not just about the pain of losing one's entire family, but it's also about the forgiveness that transcends this pain, so that she can live a happy life today."

One play goer says, "I'm really glad that Imaculee was brave enough to speak out about what really happened, so that such things can stop and never happen again."

Another responded, "If you truly believe in these lessons and follow them, they can enrich our lives, and set us free."

A portion of the proceeds from the ticket sales go to an organization that helps benefit orphans of the Rwandan genocide. After the show wrapped up in New York, Lewis Sword said she hopes she can bring it overseas, and continue to spread Imaculee Ilibagiza's incredible story.

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