Posted by: Rita | January 31, 2016

Book Five: This Voice in My Heart: A Genocide Survivor’s Story of Escape, Faith and Forgiveness by Gilbert Tuhabondye

This Voice In My HeartThe story of genocide is left to be told by the scarred souls who survive it.  Scarred by fire, Gilbert Tuhabonye tells a story of evil so vast as to be incomprehensible – except perhaps in snippets.

In This Voice in My  Heart:  A Genocide Survivor’s Story of Escape, Faith and Forgiveness, Tuhabonye separates his story of the 1993 genocide in  Burundi into snippets.  Interspersed and italicized between the story of his life growing up in a small village in Burundi, these snippets allow us to absorb the story — without turning away in horror.  But horrific it was, that day in October 1993, when Hutu neighbors butchered and burned Tuhabonye’s Tutsi classmates, teachers and friends.  Tuhabonye alone survived the attack after breaking a window with a charred femur, avoiding a crowd of murderers and running through the woods with his skin aflame.

Tuhabonye survived, he believes, in order to tell the story. The “voice in his heart” spoke to him through the horrors, telling him that he would survive so that he could bear witness. That voice, Tuhabonye believes, was God, speaking strength, saving his life, and imbuing his days with new meaning.

Switching between the horrific and the mundane, This Voice in My Heart has a rhythm, a pace, a melody, which draws you in. A morbid fascination with the acts of ordinary citizens gone feral is balanced against daily life in a place with limited electricity, water drawn from a well, and no indoor plumbing. You learn how running – the discipline, the ability to endure pain, and ultimately the opportunities for travel – played a powerful role in Tuhabonye’s life (including bringing him to Austin, Texas where he now lives and coaches other runners.) You also learn how the massacre strengthened Tuhabonye’s faith, and how that faith has become the central tenet of his life. About how, after surviving the holocaust, Tuhabonye runs through life to tell his tale.

I have the great privilege of knowing Gilbert, and had the even greater privilege of getting to witness the telling of his tale and write about it. It is a story that still haunts me.

This Voice in My Heart contains a photograph of a monument on the site of the massacre. It reads “Never Happen Again.” In the face of the current genocide in Darfur, it is hard not to be cynical about such sentiments. Yet after reading Tuhabonye’s story, told without rancor, one is led to have faith that in hope there is the possibility of redemption.




  1. I very much look forward to reading this book, Rita. Thank you for your keen- eyed and heartfelt readings and reflections, which give a powerful sense of the books while underscoring the importance of reading them ourselves. Giving us the opportunity to read “alongside” you in this way is a great gift. Thank you.

    • awwww. thanks!

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