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Genocide survivor to speak on forgiveness

April 13, 2010

KALAMAZOO--A survivor of the 1994 Rwandan genocide will speak on "The Power of Forgiveness" during the 12th annual Respecting Differences program Thursday and Friday, April 22-23.

The featured speaker, Immaculee Ilibagiza, wrote the New York Times Best Seller, "Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust." Ilibagiza will present her Respecting Differences talk twice, as well as share her powerful story of forgiveness during a Thursday evening event being sponsored by the Kalamazoo-based Fetzer Institute.

WMU employees are encouraged to attend one of her three, free talks, all of which will be on a first-come, first-seated basis and include on-stage American Sign Language translators. Employees are asked to bring their reminder postcards--or tickets--with them to the event they attend. The tickets will be sent through campus mail.

  • 2010 Respecting Differences program
    Thursday, April 22, 1:30 p.m.
    Friday, April 23, 9 a.m.

    Kalamazoo's State Theatre
    404 S. Burdick St.

  • Fetzer Institute program
    Thursday, April 22, 7 p.m.

    Kalamazoo Central High School auditorium
    2432 N. Drake Road
    Those planning to attend the Fetzer event are asked to RSVP online at fetzer.org or, toll-free, at (888) 849-4889.

Ilibagiza is regarded as one of world's leading speakers on peace, faith and forgiveness. She has worked with the United Nations and received numerous humanitarian awards, including the 2007 Mahatma Gandhi International Award for Reconciliation and Peace.

During the Rwandan genocide, Ilibagiza and seven other women spent 91 days hiding silently in a cramped bathroom of a local pastor's house. While there, she learned that her family had been brutally murdered. Ilibagiza remained in immediate danger after emerging from her confined quarters. But she persevered with strength provided through prayer and hope, discovering the true meaning of forgiveness in the process.

During the Respecting Differences talk, Ilibagiza will recapture her life-changing story, and connect her experience and survival methods to issues of stereotypes, group dynamics, peer-to-peer conflict, mediation (forgiveness) and discrimination.

"Left to Tell," Ilibagiza's first book, was released by Hay House in 2006. It quickly became a New York Times Best Seller, and that same year, Ilibagiza was featured on the CBS television show, "60 Minutes." The book will be available for purchase and signing at all three of her Kalamazoo appearances.

The annual Respecting Differences program began in 1999 as a collaboration between the city of Kalamazoo and Western Michigan University to heighten awareness of diversity issues in the workplace.

This year's event is being sponsored by six area employers in conjunction with the Fetzer Institute. In addition to WMU and the city of Kalamazoo, they are the city of Portage, Kalamazoo County, Kalamazoo College, and Kalamazoo Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. The program also is being supported by the Kalamazoo Human Resources Management Association.

As in years past, Respecting Differences focuses attention on a local organization that relates to the interests or identity of the featured speaker. The Kalamazoo Wraps project is the highlighted organization for 2010.

Kalamazoo Wraps assists youth and families who often require a variety of community services and resources. Kalamazoo Wraps does this by "wrapping" case workers, schools, translators and other providers around a family so all members get the support they need.

For more information about the Respecting Differences program, contact WMU's Nichele Moses at nichele.moses@wmich.edu or (269) 387-3620.

For information about Immaculee Ilibagiza or her Kalamazoo visit, contact the Fetzer Institute's Amy Ferguson at aferguson@fetzer.org or (269) 375-2000, ext. 244.

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Media contact: Jeanne Baron, (269) 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

WMU News
Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
(269) 387-8400