Dieudonne Disi is a world-class half-marathoner with a personal best of 59 minutes. Disi grew up in war-torn Rwanda and at age 14 witnessed the killing of his entire family. Yet he still went on to compete in the Olympics in 2004 and plans to run in Beijing.
“When I was growing up, there was no television, but I followed the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta on the radio. I thought it was amazing that a Rwandan was able to finish 8th in the world in the 10,000 meters. It was only in the year 2000 that I realized I was good at running. So I decided to try to exploit and maximize my talent.
“In 2004 I took part in the Olympic Games in Athens. I was not expecting to win a medal. Just getting to the Olympics was a big achievement in itself. Because of my lack of experience, 17th place was the best I could achieve in the Olympic final.”
The following year Disi represented his country in the Francophone Games and took gold in the 10,000 meters and bronze in the 5,000. To understand the magnitude of Disi’s achievement it is necessary to consider the events of 1994 when Rwanda was devastated by genocide.
“On my last day with my father, there were eight people in the house — my mother, my father, my brothers and sisters. My father said we were all going to die. He said that he wanted the whole family to pray and prepare to go to Heaven. My family started to pray but I went outside and hid in the garden. I heard the rebels knock on the door, it opened. They said something to my family. I understood that it was over. It was death.
“They said, ‘Come out.’ My family came out. They were killing my mother. I was still alive. After the death of my family I don’t remember much but in the end everyone within 400 meters was dead.
“I have never forgotten that my father asked me to pray in preparation for Heaven. I used to pray every day with my family but when my family died, I stopped praying. For five years I did not pray.
“A few years later I was asking myself why my family who had prayed was all now dead. Where are they now? But I had confidence that my family and friends who perished were in Heaven. I realized that if I was ever going to see my family again, I needed to start praying again. The way to see my family again was through prayer.
“In the Bible it says that there is only one way to Heaven — Jesus Christ. If you are to get to Heaven, it can only be through Jesus Christ. For me Jesus Christ is the way to Heaven and the way to God.”