“The Marian apparitions of Kibeho in Rwanda, perhaps the poorest country in Africa were witnessed by seven principal visionaries. The warnings issued at Rwanda were not only prophetic but unmistakably accurate and, because they were not heeded, the fate of the nation seemed sealed; the Virgin finally even urged the visionaries to flee their homeland before the onset of the wars ahead.
The apparitions began on November 28, 1981, when Alphonsine Mumureke, a sixteen-year-old student in a Catholic convent, heard a voice calling out "my daughter" to her as she was helping in the dining room. She left the room and saw a beautiful lady in white in the corridor. When Alphonsine asked her who she was, the lady replied, "I am the Mother of the Word," speaking in Kinyarwanda, the language of the Rwandans. The Virgin asked her which of the religions she liked, to which Alphonsine replied, "I love God and His Mother who have given us Their Son who has saved us." The Virgin commended her and said that she wished that some of her friends would have more faith since some did not believe enough. She then asked Alphonsine to join a lay evangelization group called the Legion of Mary and said that she wanted to be loved and trusted as a Mother so that she could lead people to her Son Jesus (the Legion of Mary is one of the largest lay Christian organizations in the world; one of the pioneers of the Legion from Ireland, Edel Quinn, had devoted her life to the work of the Legion in the neighboring country of Kenya). The Virgin then gracefully arose until she was out of sight. As she departed, Alphonsine dropped to the ground and was unconscious for about fifteen minutes.
The other children had heard Alphonsine engaged in conversation and were curious to find out what had happened. When Alphonsine narrated her experience, both her friends and the nuns were skeptical and scornful. Alphonsine witnessed another apparition of the Virgin on the next day, in which she was told that the Virgin liked her children to see her as a mother. Again she lost consciousness at the end of the apparition, and again she told the others what had happened but was met with the same ridicule. The apparitions continued through December. Most of the girls continued to mock Alphonsine, even throwing Rosaries at her during the apparitions, but some prayed that others could also share the experience so that they could find out if Alphonsine was being truthful.
On January 12, 1982, these prayers were answered, and Anathalie Mukamazimpaka, a sixteen-year-old girl who was already a member of the Legion of Mary, witnessed an apparition of the Virgin. The messages she received focused on prayer, humility, and self-sacrifice. Once Anathalie started witnessing the apparitions, most of the community accepted Alphonsine's veracity. The continuing apparitions were now beginning to transform the spiritual life of the students. On March 22, yet another student, twenty-two-year-old Marie-Clare Mukanganga, reported seeing the Virgin as well. She had been one of the most ardent scoffers and now begged forgiveness for her disbelief. She said that the Virgin wanted everyone to meditate on the Passion of Jesus and the sorrow of His mother and asked them to pray the Rosary and the beads of the Seven Sorrows to receive the grace of repentance.
By now news of the apparitions had spread around Rwanda and visitors were coming to Kibeho from all over the country. To accommodate the hundreds of onlookers, special platforms were constructed for the visionaries in the convent yard and the crowds could now see them as they entered the state of ecstasy, which often lasted three or four hours. The girls would sing songs or pray the Rosary until the coming of the Virgin at a preset time.
Four others also began seeing Jesus and Mary. Stephanie Mukamurenzi, a fourteen-year-old girl, saw her beginning on May 25, 1982, and received messages about repentance, conversion, and mortification. On June 2, Agnes Kamagaju, twenty-two years old, first saw the Virgin; within months she was also seeing Jesus. Jesus called everyone to conversion and prayer and specially asked the youth to keep their bodies holy. The last of these seemed to be a warning about AIDS and the path of destruction it would cut through Rwanda. On July 2, a fifteen-year-old illiterate pagan boy named Segatashya (who later received the Christian name Emmanuel) saw and heard a handsome thirty-year-old man—Jesus—who taught him the Lord's Prayer and other basic Christian prayers and doctrine. Through Emmanuel, Jesus asked for prayer, repentance and reparation because the end of the world was rapidly approaching. He also spoke about the failure of many priests to remain faithful to their vows. On September 15, Mary appeared to Vestine Salina, a twenty-four-year-old Moslem woman. Vestine was asked to play the role of a shepherd leading people to God and Heaven. The Virgin asked the people for daily recitation of the Rosary and remembrance of her Seven Sorrows on the Rosary beads.
Huge crowds watched the seven visionaries as they went into ecstasies that lasted several hours. During the ecstasies, the visionaries were not affected when observers pricked them with knives or burnt them with candles or shone bright lights into their eyes; they were also "frozen" so that their arms and legs could hardly be moved. Sometimes during the apparitions the assembled multitudes also witnessed various supernatural phenomena such as miracles of the sun (including the dancing of the sun and multicolored displays like at Fatima), stars turning into crosses at night, and heavy rains that came when the visionaries asked the Virgin to bless the crowds (cures were reported from the water collected from the rain). After warning observers that this would happen, the visionaries went into comatose states for extended periods in which they were taken to Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell. They were also shown a vision of the savage future awaiting Rwanda: rivers of blood, burning trees, and countless rows of corpses, many of them headless. This glimpse of the future, given in an eight-hour-long apparition on August 15, 1982, had such a terrifying effect on the visionaries that it shook even the onlookers. The visionaries were told that there would be a "river of blood" if Rwanda did not come back to God.
The Rwandan civil war began in 1991 and took a toll of over one million lives. The visionary Marie-Clare was one of the slain. Alphonsine's entire family was killed although she herself escaped. The other visionaries are believed to be in refugee camps, although there is speculation that Emmanuel may have been killed as well. Bishop Gahamanyi is one of the hundreds of clergy who were killed in the civil war. Thousands of dead bodies were thrown into rivers that turned putrid. Thousands of other corpses, many of them decapitated, were left unburied.”