Rwanda genocide survivor telling his story Tuesday at Vail Christian, Oct. 25 | VailDaily.com

Rwanda genocide survivor telling his story Tuesday at Vail Christian, Oct. 25

"In my country, the cypress is known as the tree of life. I did not ever think it would save my life from bloodthirsty men who raged through Rwanda."

And so begins the amazing tale of Eric Irivuzumugabe, who survived the Rwanda genocide by hiding in a cypress tree for 15 days without food or water. Irivuzumugabe will tell his story on Tuesday evening at Vail Christian High School. This story and his book about it are nonfiction; you can't invent this.

That story begins in 1994, when the Rwandan genocide began, known as the genocide against the Tutsi, or the genocidal mass slaughter of Tutsi in Rwanda by members of the Hutu majority government. Irivuzumugabe's Tutsi family was among the victims of that slaughter.

"Three uncles and I hid in cypress trees listening to the roar of violence. Days seemed like years while the screams of our families led us toward madness," Irivuzumugabe said.

“To forgive those who murdered your family is an overwhelming request, but forgiveness is one of the greatest gifts a victim can offer.” Eric IrivuzumugabeRwanda genocide survivor

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In 100 days between April 7 and mid-July 1994, 1 million Rwandans were slaughtered — as many as 70 percent of the Tutsi and 20 percent of Rwanda's total population. More than 120,000 Rwandan children were left without parents, the world's largest orphan population.

"I am a genocide survivor, but still, 70 members my family were murdered, along with 1 million others killed at a rate faster than any war," Irivuzumugabe said.

Terror and healing

Irivuzumugabe's book is a tale of both terror and spiritual healing. He explains that persevering through a problem could make people bitter, but only if they refuse to see it as an opportunity to grow instead of allowing a bitter root to take grow.

"During those nights of terror, I could find no trace of a loving God, but God helped us escape as we experienced violence, murder, beatings and rape," Irivuzumugabe said. "I have also experienced greater love, and today I believe in a loving God."

Much of the book and the central part of his story is his spiritual healing, and how, through the love of Christ, he was able to forgive those who intensely hated him and slaughtered his family.

"To forgive those who murdered your family is an overwhelming request, but forgiveness is one of the greatest gifts a victim can offer," Irivuzumugabe said. "We tell our stories to bring healing, to offer hope to our orphans and to mend wounded hearts outside of our borders.

"I am here to tell you that God is real, and he saved my life."

Irivuzumugabe and others launched Humura Childcare Ministries in Rwanda, which they call "an extended family on a mission," serving orphans and other children.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

If You Go …

What: Humura Childcare Ministries president Eric Irivuzumugabe.

When: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 25.

Where: Vail Christian High School’s Grace Auditorium, 31621 U.S. Highway 6, Edwards.

Cost: Free.

More information: Irivuzumugabe survived the Rwanda genocide by hiding in a tree for 15 days without food or water. His book is “My Father, Maker of the Trees: How I Survived the Rwandan Genocide.” Visit humurachildcare.org.