She was describing to reporters at Madrid airport how Belgian soldiers, under orders not to accept Rwandans, had to leave her local colleagues - two Tutsis and two Hutus - behind at Kigali airport.
'The sisters knew full well that the machete is a terrible death. They keep chopping at the head until they hit the jugular.' Sister Maria witnessed the massacre of members of Rwanda's Tutsi minority by Hutu tribesmen last week. 'I saw children with their heads already hacked out of shape, begging us for help because the Hutus were trying to finish them off. I saw men and women with their throats cut.'
Sister Maria Pilar had worked in the Gikoro church on behalf of the Sisters of the Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel.
Another nun, Sister Pilar Espelosin, of the Missionaries of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, said she and her two Spanish colleagues at the hospital near Kibuye had to leave behind a Rwandan nun, as well as dozens of patients and refugees. 'We have come out of the horror. There was no human force that could have stopped them. But don't think that all the Hutus were doing this - some were as terrified as the Tutsis. Bands of youths forced people to take part in the butchery. More than 95 per cent of Rwandans were against what was happening.'
Sister Pilar said she was deeply concerned for the patients and refugees they had left behind. Armed Hutu tribesmen had taken over the hospital's courtyard, and the Spanish nuns had to pay every penny they had to persuade them to leave. A total of 22 nuns, priests and other foreigners had been packed into a single four-wheel-drive vehicle for the rough five-hour drive to Kigali and evacuation, she said.