Tibhirine


For those who don’t know about it and may be interested, I have just watched the trailer and two extracts (here and here) from Xavier Beauvois’ film Of Gods and men which I gather has been showing in Europe and the USA. I’ve no idea if it will be coming to South Africa, but, if not, I hope that I get to see it somehow.

There are also reviews in the Guardian and the New York Times.

The film deals with the 1996 martyrdom of the Cistercian community of Our Lady of the Atlas in Tibhirine, Algeria, an event that has deeply affected many people, including myself.  (There is also helpful material here from the author of The Monks of Tibhirine, including extracts from his book).

Update: For those who read French, after posting this I discovered a recent interview with Brother Jean-Pierre, one of the two monks who survived attack, in Le Figaro. I ‘ve only skimmed through it, but it certainly looks worth reading.

Another update: It turns out that it is showing in South Africa and I saw it on Friday night. I won’t say more now as it triggered emotions that I don’t really want to speak about online, but it was definitely very good, and an accurate reflection of the events (although I do agree with the Guardian reviewer that the refectory scene was a bit over the top). In any case, please do go and see it if you possibly can!

Christian reminded his audience of John’s words: He who hates his brother is a murderer. “Each person must ask, ‘Have I eradicated all forms of hatred from my heart?’ We cannot live in this country today, wishing for peace, if we don’t go to this extreme of removing hatred from ourselves … and no one can say he has done this.

“When I approach my neighbor, I also become his guardian, which means to become his hostage. Justice begins with the other. Take the case of Sayah Attia. I was not only the guardian of my brothers in the monastery but his guardian, too, of this man who stood opposite me and who should have been able to discover within himself something more than what he had become. I think this happened in some small measure, to the degree that he gave way that night, or made an effort to understand me. People say these types are disgusting animals, they are not human, and that you can’t deal with them. I say that if we talk like that, there will never be peace.”

“… We could not keep going if we did not pray and, in our prayers, seek to rid ourselves of the spirit of violence, prejudice, and rejection within us. After the episode with Attia, I wanted to pray for him. What should I pray to God? ‘Kill him?’ No, but I could pray, ‘Disarm him.’ But then I asked myself, Do I have the right to ask God to disarm him if I don’t begin by asking, ‘Disarm me, disarm my brothers.’ That was my prayer each day.”

John W. Kiser, The Monks of Tibhirine. Faith, Love and Terror in Algeria, (NY: St Martin’s Griffin, 2003) 219-220.

Today is the twelfth anniversary of the deaths of our brothers of Tibhirine in Algeria. Caught up in the violence ravaging that country they chose to remain in their monastery, in solidarity with their neighbours, creating a space for hospitality and dialogue. Captured and beheaded they became in life and in death a sign and a plea for Christian-Muslim understanding, which was expressed in Brother Christian’s testament that was released after his death and can be found here.

For more on the monks of Tibhirine (Atlas) see here.