25 years after the Rwandan genocide, Denise Uwimana tells her story

A memoir about survival and the theological questions it raises

“My way of seeking guidance had always been to open the Bible at random and see what it told me,” Denise Uwimana writes. “Western Christians have told me this approach is misguided.”

I’ve been one of those Western Christians, preaching derisively to my congregation about the open-and-point method. But after reading Uwimana’s account of surviving the Rwandan genocide, which happened 25 years ago, I won’t mock the practice again. Her rich depictions of lived faith make reading a book about a million people dying in a hundred-day period bearable.

Christianity permeates Uwimana’s story. When she married Charles, a lapsed Catholic, his Hutu priest refused to officiate—so they were wed in Uwimana’s parents’ church in Burundi, the country to which her family had fled from Rwanda when she was a child. After marriage, Uwimana expected Charles to lead them in prayer. She was startled when he told her, “I have no idea how to pray.” Eventually, however, he overheard a sermon from the doorway of a church and converted. They worked together at Cimerwa, a concrete company in Bugarama, Rwanda, he in management and she in administration.