Despite the incredibly cramped conditions, Immaculée does not recall feeling embarrassed of using the toilet in front of the other women or recall any bad smells from their time in the bathroom, because all these things were “trivial” in the context of their battle for survival. Sometimes Pastor Murinzi isn’t able to bring the women food until 3 or 4am and sometimes what he brings them is disgusting. The constant fear of the killers returning is a form of “mental and physical torture.” To survive, Immaculée spends “every waking moment” deep in prayer. Sometimes she prays so hard that she begins to sweat. During breaks from saying prayers, she reflects on her favorite Bible passages. Prayer feels like “armor” protecting her from her ordeal.
In this passage, Immaculée contrasts the abysmal physical conditions in which she is living with the power of prayer as a form of protection against these conditions. Indeed, it is testament to the power of Immaculée’s faith that her mental connection with God is able to overwhelm the physical and psychic agony she suffers in the bathroom. Indeed, Immaculée prays so intensely that it turns into a physical sensation, thereby dismantling the distinction between mental and physical experience.
A week into Immaculée’s time in the bathroom, she and the other women overhear Pastor Murinzi talking to his son, Sembeba. Sembeba suggests that Tutsis deserve to be massacred; in school he learned that Tutsis did the same thing to Hutus hundreds of years ago and that the killings are thus a form of “self-defense.” Immaculée is so angry that she wants to jump up and shout. She thinks about how, after the Nazi Holocaust, all the most powerful countries in the world promised that such a thing would never happen again. However, Immaculée is now living through another genocide. Pastor Murinzi yells at his son, calling him stupid and reminding him that his Tutsi relatives are being massacred. Sembeba accuses his father of hiding Tutsis in the house.
Once again, Immaculée’s pain is greatly intensified by her profound powerlessness. Not only is she unable to tell Sembeba he is wrong, but she—like everyone else who witnesses the Rwandan genocide whether from up close or far away—is devasted by her own powerlessness in stopping the genocide from occurring in the first place. After the Nazi Holocaust, it seemed momentarily possible that there would never again be another genocide—however, humanity has ultimately proven powerless in ensuring one doesn’t.
Later that day, the killers return, but once again they do not find the women. That night, Pastor Murinzi comes into the bathroom with a look of horror on his face. He tells the women that this is nothing like the massacres of 1959 or 1973. The government has shut down the country until every last Tutsi is killed. Many Tutsis fled to churches, but the killers then locked the doors and burned alive those inside. There are piles of bodies as high as houses, and the smell of decaying corpses is suffocating. He tells the women that they might be the only Tutsis still alive in the country. The other women cry, but Immaculée is filled with anger. She feels a desperate urge to destroy the whole country and kill everyone in it.
Pastor Murinzi’s description of the outside world suggests that this world has been completely drained of humanity. All that is left is bloodthirsty violence, horror, and decay. It is perhaps unsurprising that Immaculée’s only reaction to hearing about such intense devastation is to crave more devastation. In her state of total powerlessness, she fantasizes about having the power to destroy everything—even as such a fantasy goes completely against her nature and beliefs.
Immaculée asks Pastor Murinzi to turn on the radio in his room so the women can listen, and he agrees. A government minister encourages every Hutu listening to kill all the Tutsis in the country. Immaculée realizes with horror that Pastor Murinzi was telling the truth. She also concludes that Leonard had been mistaken in trusting the government. Later, the pastor switches to the BBC and Immaculée hears that the RPF have reached Kigali and that the extremist Hutu government is on the verge of collapse. Immaculée is hopeful that the RPF might reach them in a matter of weeks, yet wonders if this will still be too late.
Immaculée’s view of the war, the genocide, and indeed of Rwanda in general is changing by the minute. The country is in such a chaotic state that nobody truly understands what is happening—including the perpetrators of the violence. While in this moment Immaculée believes that Leonard was too trusting of the government, elsewhere in the book she emphasizes the importance of never losing trust, faith, and hope in others.