Despite sometimes being beaten by those who doubted his sincerity, Segatashya seemed to retain his innate innocence. Ultimately the depth of his spiritual wisdom convinced and comforted many of his critics.
Ilibagiza has also written “Our Lady of Kibeho” (with Steve Erwin), a book about the Marian visionaries whose experiences in the early 1980s made the town a famous pilgrimage site. Unlike their visions, however, Segatashya’s were not officially authenticated by the Catholic Church before his death. Ilibagiza recounts in “The Boy Who Met Jesus” how Segatashya once appeared to her in a dream, advising her not to be overly concerned with this: “‘Isn’t telling my story more important than waiting for someone on earth to give my words a stamp of approval? Isn’t letting people know about the messages Jesus gave to me the most important thing in the world?'”
Ilibagiza, who studied electronic and mechanical engineering at the National University, lost most of her own family in the Rwandan genocide. She met Segatashya about a year before he died; her research sources also include extensive interviews with his younger sister, Christine. Ilibagiza’s tone throughout “The Boy Who Met Jesus” is reverent and respectful. She spends perhaps more time than needed in reflecting on her own feelings toward Segatashya.
No matter how one regards supposed mystical apparitions such as this, the story is often engaging. After all, Segatashya represents our own primal yearning with the questions he poses directly to Jesus: Why were we created? Why must we suffer? Is there life after death? How do we get to heaven?
Roberts directs the journalism program at the State University of New York at Albany. She is the author of “Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker” and other books.