Our Lady’s Apparition in Rwanda, Africa
By Nora V. Clemente-Arnaldo
We are quite familiar with popular Marian apparitions such as Our Lady’s approved apparitions in Rue du Bac, Lourdes, Guadalupe, Akita, and Fatima. Many other apparitions have been reported, like the ones in Garabandal, Marmora, Ecuador, and Egypt but since the Church has always been very prudent in verifying the authenticity of every reported apparition, these have not yet received approval.
There are four recent apparitions however, that have been recognized and approved by the Church: Banneaux and Beauraing (Belgium, 1933), Akita (Japan, 1969), Finca Betania (Venezuela, 1974) and Kibeho (Rwanda, 1981). The recognition of the latter was approved by Msgr. Augustin Misago, Bishop of Gikongro, Kibeho’s diocese, on 29 June 2001 on the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, during a solemn Mass celebrated in the cathedral of Gikongro. On 11 July, its recognition was published by the Holy See in Rome, in the L’ Osservatore Romano and broadcast in radio news bulletins in all languages.
I take pleasure in sharing the story of the apparitions in Kibeho to all readers of Totus Tuus Maria, most especially those (I believe many) out there who may not have heard of it. My primary source is an article written by Renzo Allegri in the 2002 issue of the Messenger of St. Anthony.
According to Bishop Misago, the first apparition was on 28 November 1981 in a school in Kibeho run by nuns of a religious Rwandan congregation. Later, in March 1982, the Bishop then who was responsible for Kibeho diocese, Msgr. Jean Baptiste Gahamanyi, ordered an inquiry in order to establish if the facts were reliable. Bishop Misago was, at that time, professor of the main seminary. He was nominated by one of the members of the commission, with the task to follow the events. Every time an apparition was announced, they had to be there to check and make inquiries, and perform medical tests.
The Seers and their Experiences
Rwanda is a tiny country which straddles Central Africa. The apparitions in Rwanda happened during the years 1981 to 1989 in the poor village of Kibeho. The Blessed Mother appeared to seven African youngsters–six girls and a boy.
The first apparition took place at about 12:35 in the afternoon while the school girls were in the dining room. Alphonsine Mumuruke, 16, was serving lunch to her companions when she heard a voice calling her “Come here my girl.” It came from a corridor next to the dining room and Alphonsine walked over there. “Who are you?” Alphonsine asked. The woman answered, “Indi Nyina Iva Jambo.” (I am the Mother of the Word.) She continued, “I have come to reassure you because I have heard your prayers. I’d like your school friends to be as faithful because they do not believe enough.”
Alphonsine, who comes from a Catholic family and is a devotee of the Blessed Mother, describes the Lady visitor:
She was beautiful like no other. She wore a white seamless dress and a white veil on her head. She did not have any footwear. Her hands were held together at chest height, pointing upwards towards the sky.
According to her classmates, during the Lady’s apparition, Alphonsine spoke several languages–French, English, Kinyarwanda, and other languages she did not know. At the end of the apparition, she remained immobile for sometime. She was in trance. One of the nuns shook her and carried her into the office.
Alphonsine recounted everything that happened to her but nobody believed her. Nuns and students thought she was either bewitched, hallucinating or that she had seen ghosts. She became a laughing stock and suffered a great deal because of this.
Then on the evening of 12 January 1982, the Virgin appeared to another girl, Anathalie Mukamazimpaka, 17. Two months later, on the 2nd of March, she also appeared to a third girl, Marie Claire Mukangango, 21, one of the most skeptical girls in the school. This time, many of the girls began to believe.
News of the apparitions spread like wildfire. The curious and the devout began to arrive in Kibeho. From the beginning of the apparitions, there were healings, conversions, and other inexplicable phenomena.
One of Alphonsine’s experiences during the apparitions is somewhat unusual. She told one of the nuns and a friend that the Blessed Virgin would take her on a journey: “I’ll appear to be dead but don’t bury me.” Witnesses later revealed that during this mystic “trip” which lasted six hours, her body was rigid, heavy, and in a state of coma. They stuck pins under her nails, checked her breathing and tried to rouse her but all to no avail.
The second visionary, Anathalie, had similar mystic “trips”. She fasted for 14 days, from 16 February to 2 March 1983. During this period, she survived on Holy Communion. A theological medical committee studied her in great detail; eight nuns watched her day and night in shifts; the doctors carried out tests everyday to keep her state of health under control.
Bishop Misago says that these apparitions, just like other apparitions of Our Lady, convey messages of immediate conversion The Blessed Mother revealed herself as Our Lady of Sorrows. The seers’ words, the Bishop says, reveal that her common theme was of “suffering that redeems”. She invited everyone to join in Christ’s suffering to save the world. She spoke of her wish that all Christians learn to use the Rosary as a prayer. The suffering that befell Rwanda and its neighboring countries was seen by the visionaries, only that time such visions were incomprehensible.
The visions referred to–later known as the Rwanda genocide–were seen by the seers on 15 August 1982 (Feast of the Assumption), amongst over 20,000 people. On that day, the Blessed Mother appeared to each of the seers in turn. According to them, the Virgin’s face was sad and sorrowful. Alphonsine noticed she was in tears. This time, the seers behaved differently: they cried, trembled and their teeth chattered in fear. They told of having seen a river of blood, people killing each other with the dead lying around which nobody cared to bury, a tree in flames, decapitated heads…
Twelve years later, the tears of Our Lady of Sorrows were better understood. War in Rwanda broke out in 1994 between the Hutus and Tutsis. In this war of brother versus brother, there was terrible slaughter. It was more commonly referred to as a genocide by the Western world. Hutu militias wiped out from 500,000 to a million of the minority-Tutsi population. Kibeho witnessed some of the worst atrocities of the war. On 7 April 1994, about 20,000 Tutsis and peaceful Hutus sought refuge in the church built in memory of the visions which took place there. The Tutsis hiding in the chapel were forced to exit one at a time and they were all killed by machetes. Those who didn’t leave the chapel were later killed by grenades.
The following year, the Tutsis came to power avenging themselves. Kibeho once again became a site of bloodshed. Ten thousand Hutus sought refuge in Kibeho and an enormous refugee camp for 250,000 people was built. On 18 April the patriotic and Tutsi-dominated Rwandan army laid siege to the camp and shot the refugees for several days on end. The daily occurrence of killings made the town’s streets flow with blood, just as in the young seers’ vision 12 years earlier.
It was because of this war that Bishop Misago, an ethnic Hutu, was accused of eight counts of complicity in genocide and crimes against humanity. He was accused of abetting the massacre of 500,000 to 800,000 Tutsis in Rwanda over three months in 1994. The prosecution sought the death penalty. Bishop Misago suffered the humiliation of a dreadful prison in Kigali with 135,000 prisoners accused of genocide, had a farcical trial and was eventually completely absolved in June 2000. It was in prison where he reflected long and hard on all the materials on the apparitions he had gathered in Kibeho. Bishop Misago is considered a martyr, a witness for the faith.
A year after he came out from prison, Bishop Misago approved of the recognition of the apparitions and this is what he said:
The apparitions were a gift from heaven to Africa and to the world. The Virgin, Our Lady of Sorrows, came to us to speak of peace, understanding, brotherhood, and to make us understand that when people don’t seek these values, they become bloodthirsty murderers, capable of carrying out the most horrific of crimes. In this way the world has no future.
Such pronouncements of the Bishop are full of God’s wisdom, for us and the whole world to ponder, for the sake of peace of humanity.
The Second Coming
Aside from the prophecy on the Rwandan war, there is another message given to the children to which all the world should pay attention. Let me turn to another source, Mankind’s Final Destiny by former Ambassador to the Vatican Howard Q. Dee. The book quotes two seers as saying they were told that the Lord Jesus is coming soon. Emmanuel Segatashya, an unschooled pagan boy born to illiterate pagan parents, was 15 years old when the Lord Jesus appeared to him. Hereunder are portions of Emmanuel’s narration:
I was picking beans in a field when I heard a voice. At first I was frightened; I did not know where the voice was coming from. Then a great joy came over me. Now the fear left me. Jesus was dressed like a man of Rwanda, in a long tunic. His eyes were twinkling. He was about 30 years old.
He taught me the Lord’s Prayer and how to pray from the heart. He filled my heart with such joy. When I saw Jesus, he was surrounded by a great light. He told me: “I am neither white nor black; I am simply Lord.” Many people could not believe that Jesus would choose me, a pagan, for his messages. He told me we do not reach heaven by special gifts or compromises but only through prayer coming from the heart. There is not much time left in preparation for the last judgment–be vigilant!
The Lord taught me the value of suffering, united with his pain to suffer for the salvation of the world. Jesus said we must change our lives, renounce sin, praying to prepare for our own death and for the end of the world. We must prepare while there is still time… There is not much time left and Jesus will come.
On the other hand, Alphonsine says: "Mary asks us to pray the Rosary and to learn to love her and to return to her Son through prayer and penance…She said to pray hard–we must prepare now for the return of her Son Jesus."
With the messages given to us on the Lord’s Second Coming, the apparitions of Our Lady in Africa, bear a tremendous importance. Not only a message to Africans warning them then of the Rwandan genocide, it speaks of a matter of paramount importance–the Second Coming of the Lord. Ambassador Dee writes in his book, published in 1993, that the Rwandan apparition is the latest on record approved by the local Bishop and the only apparition of Our Lady wherein she told the visionaries to prepare for the second coming of her Son.
Need we ask for more apparitions in order to believe? Our daily lives should be lived in an attitude of watchful expectation–for Him who comes to us in various ways like the Holy Eucharist, in the poor ones who need help, in the priests who celebrate Mass. Most of all, we wait for His glorious coming–in faith and in joy!
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