Triumph over darkness: Rwandan genocide survivor inspires at Northeast State

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Marie-Christine Williams was a 14-year-old girl living in her father’s house in Kigali, Rwanda, on the day in 1994 when the Rwandan genocide began. She happened to be outside in the backyard when a death squad burst into her family’s home. Hiding in the bushes, she listened in horror as the killers attacked her family members with machetes.

Finally, when the screaming stopped, she fled–frightened, barefoot and alone.

So begins her harrowing account of surviving the 100-day bloodbath that took as many as 1 million lives. During the genocide, extremist members of the ethnic Hutu majority turned against their Tutsi and moderate Hutu friends and neighbors. When it was over, 80 percent of Rwanda’s Tutsi population had been slaughtered.

Williams told her story Tuesday in Northeast State’s Wellmont Regional Center for the Performing Arts as part of the college’s International Education Committee as part of Women’s History Month. 

Williams survived using her wits, her faith in God and sheer determination to overcome injury, attempted murder, starvation and the emotional trauma of witnessing so many brutal killings. She ran at night and hid during the day. Her only focus was eluding the death squads on patrol and evading the roadblocks where the killers executed anyone suspected of being Tutsi.

Williams was captured three times. Twice she managed to escape. The third time, her captors dragged her to a bridge with other women, hacked each of them with a machete, and pushed them over the side. The killers left her for dead. She was later pulled from the pile of bodies by rebel soldiers of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, thus saving her life.

Her injuries–machete scars, bullet wounds, infections, and broken limbs–required years to repair. Her emotional and spiritual recovery continues to this day. Williams is now a mother, a successful author, and a compelling, inspiring motivational speaker.

As a speaker, Marie-Christine captivates and inspires audiences with the account of her strength, determination, and survival. She explores the nature of forgiveness and the healing power of compassion and service to others. Through faith, hope and the triumph of the human spirit, her dramatic message is designed for all people who want to bring meaning and uplifting into their lives.

For more information about Williams, visit https://www.triumphoverdarkness.com/.

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