Lady of Kibeho
I am the Mother of the Word
1981 - 1988
Our Lady of Kibeho is the name given to Marian apparitions
concerning several adolescents, in the 1980s in Kibeho, south-western Rwanda.
The apparitions communicated various messages to the schoolchildren, including
an apocalyptic vision of Rwanda descending into violence and hatred, possibly
foretelling the 1994 Rwandan Genocide.
In 2001, the local bishop of the Catholic Church officially recognised the
visions of three schoolchildren as authentic.
The Kibeho apparitions began on Nov. 28, 1981, at a time of increasing tension
between the Tutsis and the Hutus. 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. The
Virgin Mary appeared to the group with the name "Nyina wa Jambo" ("Mother
of the Word") synonymous with "Umubyeyi W'Imana" ("Mother of God").The teenage
visionaries reported that the Virgin Mary asked everyone to pray to prevent a
terrible war. In the vision of Aug. 19, 1982, they all reported seeing violence,
dismembered corpses and destruction.
The longest series of visions were attributed to Alphonsine Mumureke who
received the first vision on November 28, 1981 and the last on November 28,
1989. Anathalie Mukamazimpaka's visions began in January 1982 and ended on 3
December 1983. Marie Claire Mukangango had visions for six months, lasting from
2 March 1982 until 15 September 1982. She was later killed in the massacre of
1995 at the same location.
During his 1990 visit to Rwanda, Pope John Paul II exhorted the faithful to turn
to the Virgin as a “simple and sure guide” and to pray for greater commitment
against local divisions, both political and ethnic.
In the 100 days that followed the April 1994 assassination of dictator Juvénal
Habyarimana, by most accounts, 800,000 Rwandans, by some accounts, over one
million, were slaughtered by their countrymen and, in some cases, their
next-door-neighbors. The violence was the culmination of intensifying animosity
between the two ethnic groups – the Hutus and Tutsis – and the civil war that
had preceded it. Twice, Kibeho was the sight of a massive massacre, first at the
parish church in April 1994, and then a year later in April 1995 where more than
5,000 refugees who had taken shelter at Kibeho were shot by soldiers.
Only the visions of the first three (Alphonsine, Nathalie,
and Marie Claire aged 17, 20 and 21) received local Bishop Augustin Misago's
The others claiming visions were Stephanie Mukamurenzi, Agnes
Kamagaju, Vestine Salima and Emmanuel Segastashya, the last of whom was
previously a pagan and became a Christian evangelist. Emmanuel's alleged visions
included meeting Jesus Christ in a beanfield.
The visions may be regarded as an ominous foreshadowing of
the Rwandan Genocide of 1994, and particularly the 1995 Kibeho Massacre. The
school where the visions occurred became a place of slaughter during the
genocide as dozens of children were hacked to death by Hutu terrorists. Some of
the visionaries were among the victims.
Catholic Bishop Augustin Misago of Gikongoro, Rwanda approved
public devotion linked to the apparitions on 15 August 1988 (the Solemnity of
the Assumption of Mary) and declared their authenticity on 29 June 2001. He was
accused in 1999 and acquitted on June 24, 2000 of involvement in the Rwandan
genocide. The feast day of Our Lady of Kibeho is November 28.
The Marian sanctuary at Kibeho was named "Shrine of Our Lady
of Sorrows" in 1992. The first stone was laid on 28 November 1992. In a 2003
agreement between the local ordinary and the Society of the Catholic Apostolate
(Pallotines), the rectorate of the Shrine of Our Lady of Kibeho is entrusted to
the Pallotine Fathers. The rector is appointed by the local bishop and the
Regional Pallottine Rector.
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