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 the nation’s president, 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 twice 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. The Holy See has not approved these apparitions.
Only the visions of the first three (Alphonsine, Nathalie, and Marie Claire aged 17, 20 and 21) received local Bishop Augustin Misago’s solemn approval. There were reservations about the others and the supposed visions of Jesus in July 1982, so the bishop did not confirm their authenticity.
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 1995Kibeho 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 (Pallottines), the rectorate of the Shrine of Our Lady of Kibeho is entrusted to the Pallottine Fathers. The rector is appointed by the local bishop and the Regional Pallottine Rector.