Saturday, September 3, 2011

Our Lady of Kibeho: Under the Shadow Of Medjugorje

A remarkable series of Marian apparitions, beginning on November 28, 1981, took place in the small village of Kibeho, Rwanda. The first apparition occurred a little over 5 months after the alleged apparition in Medjugorje, Yugoslavia. I believe the geographical location of the two sights partially explains why Medjugorje rose to prominence while Kibeho remained in relative obscurity. Medjugorje is centrally located in Europe and can be easily included as an additional stop on package pilgrimage tours that include the Holy Lady, Rome, Lourdes and Fatima. As for Kibeho, it could not be more off the beaten path. Also, the messages coming out of Medjugorje have been characterized as “comforting.” The language that flowed from Kibeho offered no such peace of mind. Alphonsine Mumureke, the first young woman to see Mary, said that “the world is coming to an end. Jesus' return is very close at hand.” Additionally, one of the other seers said, “...When God calls you, you will not have time to gather anything you may have left behind.” “Travelers!” Mary was further quoted as saying. “Why look back? What have you left behind?" And then this powerful line, in an apparition that had a number of things to say about destruction by flames: “If you don't take refuge in God, where will you go...when fire will spread everywhere?”
The most fascinating of the all the Kibeho messages is this one concerning sexual morality: “They should not use their bodies as an instrument of pleasure. They are using all means to love and be loved and they forget that true love comes from God. Instead of being at the service of God, they are at the service of money. They must make of their body an instrument destined to the glory of God and not an object of pleasure at the service of men. They should pray to Mary to show them the right way to God.” Two years later, in 1983, a new retro-virus was identified by the Pasteur Institute, later to be named HIV. In the 1990s pornography would reach a world wide audience through the Internet and gross an estimated $8-10 billion dollars a year. The sexual freedoms celebrated in the liberalization of the 1960s and 70s came with a high price. In the years following the apparitions, AIDS would ravage much of Africa, genocide took over Rwanda, and one of the seers was murdered. And we now all live with the continuing human costs: the rise of sexual slavery, the phenomena of child-sex tourism in the emerging world and the extraordinary proliferation of serial killers.
In the years after the Apparitions and the Rwandan genocide, the events at Kibeho have become the most strongly approved Marian apparition in years, sanctioned by a pastoral letter that was issued on June 29, 2001 (“Declaration on the Definitive Judgment on the Apparitions of Kibeho”) by Rwandan Bishop Augustine Misago at the Vatican itself (after it passed muster with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, at the time headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger). On the opposite spectrum, the goings-on at Medjugorje have been re-soundly disapproved by a series of local Bishops in the former Yugoslavia. Also very telling are the paths the different seers have taken. Of the Kibeho seers: Alphonsine is now a cloistered nun in the Ivory Coast; Anathalie still lives in Kibeho, where she works as a sacristan; Marie-Claire (pictured above) was murdered during the genocide. As for the Medjugorje seers: none of the six persisted in a religious vocation. This seems doubly strange because of the frequency and number of the Medjugorje apparitions (over 40,000) as compared to the 18 apparitions at Lourdes and the 16 at Fatima. Both of the later, such as Kibeho, included seers who entered religious life or died under tragic circumstances.
With Kibeho and Medjugorje we are faced with the decision: do we listen to the message we want to hear or the message we need to hear.