Choir members pull on their robes before mass at The Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows in Kibeho, Rwanda. This is the only sanctioned Marian sanctuary in Africa. Kibeho's overseers and the Rwandan government hope this place will become a top tourism site. © Laura Elizabeth Pohl

Choir members pull on their robes before mass at The Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows in Kibeho, Rwanda. This is the only sanctioned Marian site in Africa. The Rwandan government hopes Kibeho will become a top religious tourism site on par with Lourdes in France or Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico. © Laura Elizabeth Pohl

Down a dusty road in southern Rwanda, the pointed blue roof of a large church suddenly pierces the sky. This is the Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows in Kibeho, the only Catholic Church-sanctioned Marian site in Africa. The Church says the Virgin Mary appeared here from 1981-1983, offering messages of prayer and peace to three young women, but also foretelling the 1994 genocide.

“‘I see a river of blood! What does that mean? No, please! Why did you show me so much blood? Show me a clear stream of water, not this river of blood!” screamed Alphonsine Mumureke, one of the three visionaries, according to a book by genocide survivor Imaculeé Ilibagiza. “Why are those people killing each other? Why do they chop each other?”

The Shrine’s overseers and the Rwandan government hope this place will become a top religious tourism site on par with Lourdes in France or Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico. However, there has been some criticism that the government isn’t doing enough to attract tourists and the religious faithful to Kibeho.

You can see more of my Kibeho photos here.

A paper prayer petition lies folded at the foot of this statue of the Virgin Mary in the Apparitions Chapel at the Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows in Kibeho, Rwanda. The chapel is where the three young visionaries slept when the building was a dorm. The Mary statue is where Alphonsine Mumureke's bed was; Alphonsine was the first visionary, back on November 28, 1981. © Laura Elizabeth Pohl

A paper prayer petition lies folded at the foot of this statue of the Virgin Mary in the Apparitions Chapel at the Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows in Kibeho, Rwanda. The chapel is where the three young visionaries slept when the building was a dorm. The Mary statue is where Alphonsine Mumureke’s bed was; Alphonsine was the first visionary, back on November 28, 1981. © Laura Elizabeth Pohl

 

Pilgrims from Kigali pray the rosary at the Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows in Kibeho, Rwanda. The Virgin Mary appeared here in 1981to three young women. © Laura Elizabeth Pohl

Pilgrims from Kigali pray the rosary at the Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows in Kibeho, Rwanda. © Laura Elizabeth Pohl