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……Marie-Christine 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.
Marie-Christine survived. She used 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. At every turn, she saw bodies, wounded or dead, piled by the roadside.
As a mixed-race “blended” child, she was at an even greater risk of death. Her father was a black Tutsi who converted to Catholicism. Her European mother’s parents were white Holocaust survivors from Romania. Marie-Christine’s lighter skin made her an easy target for the extremist Hutus.
During her childhood, her father, a deeply troubled man, had subjected her to unrelenting physical and emotional abuse. He repeatedly told her: “You are stupid. You are useless. You would be better off dead.” Yet as she continued to escape the killers using only stealth and ingenuity, she came to understand and proved to herself that her father had been wrong.
She vowed to God that she would not sacrifice her own humanity despite the inhumanity that surrounded her. At every opportunity, she provided aid and comfort to other survivors. In turn, several strangers risked their own lives to protect and save hers.
Twice Marie-Christine was captured. 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. With the support of her surviving family, friends, physicians and teachers, she was able to turn away from despair. She returned to the Church. She married, gave birth to a son, and with her husband built the warm and happy home that as a little girl she had always dreamed of and wanted.
Today, Marie-Christine, now a widowed single mother, is a successful author and a compelling, inspiring motivational speaker. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri, the home of her late husband’s family.
Her memoir, The Dark Side of Human Nature: The Rwandan Massacre of April-July 1994 — A Personal Story, could certainly someday be made into a motion picture.
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.