Listen to the Children

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Serendipity (part 3)

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On the morning of November 10, we stood in the baggage security area at the Denver airport. With my shoes going through the x-ray machine and my feet freezing, a guard asked me to empty the contents of my computer bag. While I was removing the computer and other miscellany, I noticed something sparkly in the bottom of the bag. It was a blue crystal rosary—origin unknown. It is true that I was raised Catholic, and am still very grounded in the Catholic Church. The rosary for me has always been reserved for wakes and funerals, and as a matter of habit, I never carry one. I repacked my computer case and didn’t give the rosary another thought.

We arrived in Scottsdale, Arizona later that afternoon. My daughter, my fiancé, and I checked into the Doubletree hotel, dined outside by the pool, and then returned to our room. My daughter and fiancé settled into a movie, and I unpacked my computer, turned it on and prepared to let the energy of the spiritual conference guide my writing. The computer turned on, but that’s all it did. After nearly an hour of exercising the opposite side of my brain, trying everything to cause the computer to operate, I surrendered and put the computer away. My thought: I wished I’d turned it on at home because had I known it still wasn’t functional, I certainly wouldn’t have bothered lugging it with me.

The next day was the day of pre-conferences. I had signed up for one, but my fiancé had not. My daughter wasn’t registered at all. I told them they’d have to bond and bask by the pool while I was raising my energies with John Holland, another inspirational speaker. At lunch break, I returned to the room and my daughter was sitting on the bed wearing a conference badge around her neck. Honestly, my first thought was that she had stolen it. She explained to me that my fiancé had taken her to the registration desk for the conference and asked about the possibility of signing her up. The woman behind the desk told them they were sold out and on top of that there was a very long waiting list. They small-chatted for the next minute or so and during this time the computer beeped at the woman behind the desk. There had been a cancellation. She looked around, “Nobody will know you weren’t on the list.” With that, she sold the ticket to my fiancé and signed my daughter up for a weekend of seminars. My daughter was ecstatic.

After a full schedule of conferences the following day, and the three of us floating around on spiritual highs, we had dinner in the room and then headed to the main ballroom with 1600 others to hear Wayne Dyer speak. Within a few minutes of him being on stage, he asked if there were any teenagers in the room. Naturally, I elbowed my daughter into coming forward, where he gave her and four or five other teenagers copies of 10 Secrets to Success and Inner Peace. She returned to her seat and was elated, “I can’t believe I touched Wayne Dyer.”

Then Dr. Dyer began speaking about the 1994 Rwandan genocide—a wholly unexpected topic on my part—I was fully prepared to hear him speak on all the things I knew he had addressed in his books and on his CDs. At first, I quit listening. I was trying to figure out why I didn’t recall this event. I realized that this was when I was pregnant and had lost my son’s twin. My pregnancy was shaky at best, and I was consumed with continuing to carry my son. I tuned back into the story and the deeper Dr. Dyer delved into the story—I have no adequate words to relay the experience which ensued—the more I felt enveloped in a cocoon of mystery. It was physical, emotional, soulful—very “other” to any experience I’ve ever had before. And little did I know, that this was just the beginning. Along with many in the audience that night, I wept as I listened to Dr. Dyer speak. I felt his passion, absorbed his compassion. Because this lecture is so powerful, and the content such a critical part of this overall story, I include excerpts of it here:

Wayne Dyer: Back in1994 on the 6th of April, the president of a country in Africa called Rwanda, was in an airplane, and the airplane crashed to the ground. The president was a Hutu. The country is divided into Hutus and Tutsis. Ninety percent of the country is Hutu and 10 percent is Tutsis—it’s a racial divide. On the radio the Hutus begin announcing and blaming the Tutsis for this plane crash and the killing of the president of Rwanda. They encouraged something that began a genocide, one of the ugliest things that has happened in the past twenty years, perhaps the last 1000 years. On the 7th of April in 1994, every Hutu over the age of 14, was issued a machete which had already been shipped in crates and was available . . . it turns out [Dyer had evidence from the UN and has read it thoroughly], that all of this was done prior to [the plane crash] in preparation to do this killing that was to take place over the next ninety-one days.

The Hutus later went on the air and took responsibility for this plane crash. The machetes were issued. The spears were issued. And for the next ninety-one days in a country the size of the state of Maryland, with ten million people, the banks closed, all of the grocery stores closed, the schools closed and, the business for the next ninety days was killing. Women, babies, grandmothers— if you were married to a Tutsis, you were to kill your wife and your children and if you didn’t, you would be killed, hacked to death. The encouragement was broadcast over the radio every hour on the hour. It was going on in the most hateful kind of description you could ever imagine and after ninety days, one million people, think of this now, and when you think of 9/11 and three thousand people dying, when you think of the tsunami, or the hurricane in Louisiana, a million people were slaughtered. Every dog in Rwanda had to be killed in July of 1994 because they had been doing nothing but eating human body parts for the previous ninety days.

In the midst of this horror there was this young woman, named Immaculee, who was in college, 200 miles away from her village. She called her father, and her father persuaded her to come home for Easter vacation. She didn’t want to go. She insisted that she not go because she had too much to do at school. Her father insisted she must come home. She took the long bus ride home. Now, traveling 200 miles in Rwanda is not the same thing as traveling 200 miles here in the United States. She got there on the 7th of April when the killing began and all the Tutsis began to head for the borders, and as they headed for the borders, massive numbers of Hutus were just out there hacking people to death. This was going on eleven years ago in our lives. And we knew it was going on. Not only did we know it was going on here, but in Europe they knew it was going on. Almost nothing was done, in fact nothing was done until ninety days went by and the French came in ultimately, and president Clinton called it the greatest failure of his administration that they didn’t go in and do something—not that it was anyone’s fault in this country or anywhere else. The killing was taking place.

Immaculee was told by her father that she had to go into hiding. She went to a pastor’s home and they had a little bathroom in the home about three feet by four feet. Immaculee and seven other women were put into this bathroom and hidden behind a clothes valet for the next 91 days. She was not allowed to say one word, not to say anything. The pastor had ten children and didn’t tell any of them that they were hidden in this bathroom. The same clothes she was wearing in April, she was wearing in July. No one bathed. No one spoke a word. She went in weighing about 120 pounds at five foot nine, and came out weighing sixty-five pounds. In that time she was hunted by Hutus with machetes that she could see five inches from her and they never found this bathroom. There had been two to three hundred people searching this room over these 91 days and they never found her. She survived by something called faith that is beyond anything I had ever heard about. She has written a book about it called: Left to Tell, How I found God in the midst of the Rwandan genocide.

[Wayne Dyer begins to read from Immaculee’s book.] “I heard the killers call my name. They were on the other side of the wall. Less than an inch of plaster and wood separated us. Their voices were cold, hard, and determined. ‘She’s here. We know she’s here somewhere. Find Immaculee,’ they were saying. There were many voices and many killers. I could see them in my mind, my former friends and neighbors who had always greeted with me love and kindness, now moved through the house carrying spears and machetes. ‘I’ve killed 399 in cockroaches, and Immaculee will make 400. It’s a good number to kill.’ A coward in our tiny bathroom, huddled in a corner, without moving a muscle, like the seven other women hiding for their lives with me, I held my breath so the killers wouldn’t hear me breathing. Their voices clawed at my flesh. I felt like I was lying on a bed of burning coals, like I’d been set on fire, a sweeping wind of pain had engulfed my body, a thousand invisible needles were ripping into me. I never dreamed fear could cause such agonizing physical pain. I tried to swallow, but my throat closed up. I had no saliva. My mouth was dryer than sand. I closed my eyes and tried to make myself disappear, but their voices just grew louder. I knew they would have no mercy. My mind echoed with only one thought: If they catch me, they will kill me. They were just outside the door and any second they would find me. I wondered what it was going to feel like when the machetes slashed through my skin and cut deep into my bones. I thought of my brothers and my dear parents, wondering if they were dead or alive, and if we would soon be together in heaven. I clasped my hands together, clasped my father’s rosary in them and began to pray, oh please God, please God, please help me, please don’t let me die like this, not like this. Don’t let these killers do this. You said in the bible that if we ask we will receive, well, God, I’m asking. Please make these killers go away. Please don’t let me die in this bathroom, please. Please God, please. The killers moved from the house and we all began to breathe again. They were gone, but they would be back, many times over the next three months. I believed God had spared my life but I’d learn over the next 91 days, as I hid trembling in fear, with seven women in a 3 foot by 5 foot bathroom that being spared is much different than being saved. But I did learn it and it was a lesson that has forever changed me. A lesson that in the midst of mass murder, taught me how to love those that who hated and hunted me and how to forgive those that slaughtered my family. My name is Immaculee Ilabagiza, and this is the story of how I discovered God during one of history’s bloodiest genocides.” Ladies and gentleman, please welcome Immaculee Ilibagiza to the stage.


illaTears streaked my face. My mouth dropped as the mystery grew. This very beautiful woman came to the stage. I couldn’t believe she was standing before me, and all I could think about was the line about how she learned to forgive those that slaughtered her family and that it made me feel that if she could forgive and not harbor anger about an issue of this magnitude, I needed to forgive my family—in essence, I had nothing to complain about. The mystery encircled me deeper into its folds.

part 4 tomorrow
nannette

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