The evangelization of Rwanda began in 1879, without any significant results. Fortunately the missionary efforts experienced a second wind between 1922 and 1937 after it took on a more Marian quality. During that period a phenomenal mass conversion took place, quite unique in the history of missions.
A pilgrim statue of Mary was taken from village to village, welcomed by dances, the beat of tam-tams and public rosaries. In the wake of this unprecedented, newborn fervor the Legion of Mary was founded in 1948 and gained steady growth.
Rwanda is composed of two ethnic groups, Hutu and Tutsi. During the Belgian occupation Rwanda and its neighbor Burundi joined forces. Both countries obtained their national independence in 1962 and quickly began the settling of scores. Conflict between the two ethnic groups turned into wild indiscriminate killing—the repression was far out of proportion to the provocation.
When the ethnic hatred and tension was about to enter its bloody climax Our Lady appeared in Kibeho, Rwanda, in November 1981.