Forty-six pilgrims from India, last week, visited Kibeho shrine in Nyaruguru District.
The pilgrims, that included one Australian, toured different parts of the shrine, including the holy spring, chapel, calvary hill, rosary path, Nyarushishi shrine, among others.
Kibeho, considered a holy land, is said to have been the scene of revelation of the Holy Mary to three female students in the 1980s.
On the way to Kibeho, the pilgrims made stopovers at places like Kabgayi, one of the oldest churches in the country.
Capt Errol Fernandes, the head of the delegation, said the visit is part of their worldwide tour of shrines.
“We have visited many shrines of Mother Mary all over the world. We visit places where Mother Mary appeared and seek her blessings and grace. It’s not easy to come to Africa from India and we have made special efforts to come to Rwanda,” he said.
“It is a good chance to visit Kibeho. It’s a very nice place, peaceful and quiet, the climate is good. We have enjoyed the presence of God over here,” he added.
According to Clarence Fernandes, who co-organised the pilgrimage under the Indo-African business forum that promotes trade, tourism and business between Africa and India, the trip is going to be an eye-opener since the pilgrims are going to be ambassadors.
He suggested that infrastructure in the area should be improved.
“The road is so bad. One hour and fifteen minute on marrum road is not comfortable. We need to promote Kibeho and infrastructure needs to be improved. I hope the authorities will put efforts together to make the destination easily accessible,” he said.
The pilgrims had a conversation with Anathalie Mukamazimpaka, one of the three seers.
She shared with them the brief account of how apparitions happened and urged people to uphold love for God and one another.
“The apparitions took place long ago but the message Mary gave to us is not outdated. It concerns all people. They must love God and one another. When people come, they are reminded of that important message,” she said.
Religious tourism on the rise
Pilgrims flock to Kibeho on the August 15, the Assumption Day, and November 28, the Feast Day of the Apparitions.
On other days, however, the number of visitors is relatively low, according to Callixte Gakire, culture and historical tourism specialist at Rwanda Development Board.
He said religious tourism in the country and Kibeho in particular is growing.
“In 2012, the Government put more efforts on developing religious tourism and Kibeho in particular. Pilgrims from Rwanda, in the region and across the world have since been increasing gradually. There used to be 15,000 to 20,000 per event but now we have above 30,000 visitors per event,” Gakire said.
“People are coming every day. It has reached the level where the entire world knows Kibeho is a holy place. We have put together all stakeholders that have to do with developing this area. We later established a master plan for Kibeho town to cope with accommodation and other facilitations issues,” he added.
Kibeho apparitions happened between 1981 and 1989.