Rwandan genocide survivor Immacul

Rwandan genocide survivor Immaculée Ilibagiza, author of Left to Tell, to speak in Twin Cities on May 9

A young Rwandan woman who survived the 1994 genocide in her country by hiding in a pastor's cramped bathroom for 91 terrifying days will be speak at a University of St. Thomas conference and give a public lecture at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis on Friday, May 9.

St. Thomas conference: Immaculée Ilibagiza, who told her story in a best-selling book, Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust (Hay House, 2006), will be the keynote speaker and receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree at "Global Perspectives," the university's second-annual conference on the relationship between spirituality and mental health.  She will speak about the effects of trauma and the cross-cultural experience of forgiveness and its benefit to mental health.

Immaculée Ilibagiza

The conference is co-sponsored by the University of St. Thomas College of Applied Professional Studies, the UST-CSC School of Social Work, Boston University Danielsen Institute, the Minneapolis Interfaith Alliance, the Basilica of St. Mary and the Minnesota Council of Churches.

The conference, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. May 9 in Schulze Hall Auditorium on the university's campus in downtown Minneapolis, is designed for counselors, social workers, psychologists, clergy and others in health care and helping professions.  Among conference topics: the spirituality of India and its impact on psychiatry and pharmacology, mental health through a Jewish world perspective, postcolonial cultural psychology and its impacts on Korean immigrants, psychotherapy and the Eastern Orthodox churches.

Cost of the conference, is $145 or $60 for students with ID. Register online. For further information, call the university's College of Applied Professional Studies, (651) 962-4657 or e-mail .

Public event: Ilibagiza also will speak about "Faith, Hope and Forgiveness" and her experiences in Rwanda at 7 p.m. May 9 in the Basilica of St. Mary, located on Hennepin Avenue between 16th and 17th Streets in downtown Minneapolis.  The public is invited.

Admission to the lecture is $12, and $2 of each admission will be donated to Ilibagiza's Left to Tell Charitable Fund, which assists Rwandan orphans.  Tickets may be purchased in advance online or at the door beginning at 6 p.m. A book-signing and reception will follow Ilibagiza's talk.

Publisher's Weekly described Ilibagiza's book in March 2006:

"In 1994, Rwandan native Ilibagiza was 22 years old and home from college to spend Easter with her devout Catholic family, when the death of Rwanda's Hutu president sparked a three-month slaughter of nearly one million ethnic Tutsis in the country. She survived by hiding in a Hutu pastor's tiny bathroom with seven other starving women for 91 cramped, terrifying days.

"This searing firsthand account of Ilibagiza's experience cuts two ways: her description of the evil that was perpetrated, including the brutal murders of her family members, is soul-numbingly devastating, yet the story of her unquenchable faith and connection to God throughout the ordeal uplifts and inspires. Her account of the miracles that protected her is simple and vivid. Her Catholic faith shines through, but the book will speak on a deep level to any person of faith.

"Ilibagiza's remarkable path to forgiving the perpetrators and releasing her anger is a beacon to others who have suffered injustice. She brings the battlefield between good and evil out of the genocide around her and into her own heart, mind and soul. This book is a precious addition to the literature that tries to make sense of humankind's seemingly bottomless depravity and counterbalancing hope in an all-powerful, loving God."

Left to Tell has sold more than 250,000 copies worldwide and has been made into a documentary. Ilibagiza’s Left to Tell Charitable Fund has raised over $150,000 for the orphans of Rwanda. She has received numerous humanitarian awards, including an honorary degree from the University of Notre Dame and the 2007 Mahatma Gandhi International Award for Reconciliation and Peace.