The Untold Story of The Schoolgirls Who Warned of Rwanda’s Genocide
Over the course of the 1980s, the Virgin Mary appeared to three young women in a Small village ‘Kibeho’ in Rwanda, identifying herself as “Mother of the Word”, The teenaged seers reported that the Virgin asked everyone to pray to prevent a terrible war. In the vision of August 19, 1982, they all reported seeing violence, dismembered corpses, and destruction. This, is the story of those girls.
Kibeho is a small village located in southwestern Rwanda. The apparitions there began on November 28, 1981, at a time of increasing tension between the Tutsi and Hutu groups. They occurred at Kibeho College, a secondary school for girls, and included an apocalyptic vision of Rwanda descending into violence and hatred which many believe foretold the 1994 Rwandan Genocide.
Over the course of the 1980s, the Virgin Mary appeared to three young women in Small village ‘Kibeho’ in Rwanda, identifying herself as “Mother of the Word”, The teenaged seers reported that the Virgin asked everyone to pray to prevent a terrible war. In the vision of August 19, 1982, they all reported seeing violence, dismembered corpses, and destruction.
The longest series of visions were attributed to Alphonsine Mumureke, who had received the initial vision shortly after her admittance into Kibeho High School in October 1981 after her primary education, and the last on November 28, 1989.
The 16-year-old schoolgirl Alphonsine Mumureke said she was in the cafeteria of the Catholic boarding school Kibeho College, Rwanda , when she heard a voice “soft as air and sweeter than music”. She saw a beautiful woman – neither white nor black – floating above the floor in a flowing seamless dress, with a veil that covered her hair. She wore no shoes, just like Alphonsine and her classmates.
“Who are you?” Alphonsine asked. “I am the mother of the word,” replied the woman, whom Alphonsine immediately recognised as the Virgin Mary. Then she issued a terrible warning: Rwanda was going to become a hell on Earth in a conflict that would see the picturesque rivers of Kibeho village run red with blood.
It was 28 November 1981, and when Alphonsine reported what she had seen, her friends ridiculed her, her teachers scolded her and her village shunned her.
Nathalie Mukamazimpaka was the next one to have visions, which lasted from January 1982 to December 3, 1983. These emphasised endless prayer and expiation, with the Virgin even instructing Mukamazimpaka to perform penances through mortification of the flesh.
Marie Claire Mukangango
Marie Claire Mukangango, who had initially bullied Alphonsine Mumureke at school because of the visions, herself experienced apparitions which lasted from March 2 to September 15, 1982. The Virgin told Mukangango that people should pray the Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows to obtain the favor of repentance – the three girls became known as “the Trinity”.
A Decade Later
A decade after the Trinity’s terrible visions, Rwanda was torn apart by a terrible genocide. During 100 days in 1994, up to a million of Rwanda’s population of just over seven million were murdered by the ruling Hutu government in an attempt to exterminate the Tutsi tribe.
Thousands of people were slaughtered in their churches, their decapitated bodies dumped into rivers. Colleagues, neighbours, friends and even family members slaughtered one another. Kibeho itself suffered two massacres. Thousands of citizens were brutally killed in the parish church and, a year later, on the esplanade where the apparitions had taken place. Most of the college’s students were murdered.
The Genocide was the culmination of intensifying animosity between the two ethnic groups – the Hutus and Tutsis – and the civil war that had preceded it. Kibeho itself was the site of two huge massacres: the first at the parish church in April 1994, and the second a year later where more than 5,000 refugees who had taken shelter there were shot by soldiers. Marie Claire Mukangango and her husband were among those killed in the April 1995 massacre.
The war ended only after the Tutsi rebels defeated the government
Our Lady of Kibeho
In 2001, after a 20-year investigation by the Vatican – and seven years after the genocide – the pope certified the apparitions as authentic. The name Our Lady of Kibeho was given to the Marian apparitions. And to this day, Tens of thousands of pilgrims still travel to Kibeho each year in search of benediction.
Today, Rwandans continue to confront on a daily basis the pain of memory, the power of reconciliation, the challenges of redemption and forgiveness and the ineradicability of loss. Two words hover over the nation’s collective psychology: Never Again.