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...The Monks of Tibhirine is not only a penetrating account of recent historical events, but of ideas and ideologies driving them.
As people seek to make sense of post sept 11, this wonderful book offers much needed perspective..the inward struggle and conviction portrayed ennoble those who read these lines.
An unusual and remarkable book: Part journalism, part psychological analysis, and part Judeo Christian-Islamic ecumenism, the author succeeds on all three fronts. A tour de force.
Film “Of Gods and Men” by Xavier Beauvois and Etienne Comar
Sony Classics brought the 2010 Cannes Grand Prix winner, “Of Gods and Men” to theaters across the United States in February 2011. Producer Xavier Beauvois and script writer Etienne Comar dramatically retell this true story, set in strife-torn Algeria during the 1990s, of a remote community of French Trappist monks who choose their friendship with Muslim neighbors over their own lives.
This surprising tale of friendship and violence previewed America’s experience in Iraq ten years later.
Acclaimed across France, the film tells a love story wrapped in a horror story. It draws on the research and drama of the monks’ kidnapping and death told in John Kiser’s prize winning book, The Monks of Tibhirine: Faith, Love and Terror in Algeria ( St Martin’s Press). Translated into French in 2006, the account detailed the monks’ struggle to reconcile their vows with their instinct to flee a violent death.
At the press conference in Cannes, Actor Lambert Wilson( played Christian de Cherge) acknowledged that Kiser’s book was “a mine of information needed to understand my role, the community and the political situation.” Producer Beauvois said of the book, “It was like our Bible.”
The obliquely told horror story is of a low level Islamist insurgency that became much more violent after the cancellation of national elections in 1992. The unspoken background struggle is over power, justice and what it means to be a good Muslim. As in Iraq ten years later, the tide of sympathy for the insurgents turned away when the Islamist GIA (Group Islamique Armé) began butchering innocent civilians, in violation of Islamic principles of warfare.
Particularly offensive to the general Algerian population was the killing of nuns and priests. Dozens of imams were also assassinated for denouncing the terrorists. The Algerian insurgency, led by veterans of the Afghan war against Russia, applied every tactic Americans confronted in Iraq, save suicide bombings.
Viewers conditioned to believe that Muslims hate Christians will be surprised by the respect and love shown towards the monks by the local population, even by the terrorists. In one of the most dramatic scenes of the film, a local emir breaks into the monastery with a handful of men on Christmas Eve 1994. He demands money and medical help only to be confronted by a resolute Father Superior, Christian de Chergé, played by Lambert Wilson. Christian not only refuses his demands, but rebukes him for disturbing their celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. The emir apologizes and offers a hand in friendship.
The monks practice brotherly love within the monastery and without, soul doctors for all. The Trappist community had been a presence among Muslims in Algeria since 1938. Theirs was a respectful love that accepted that God speaks to people in different ways. They practiced their faith openly without ulterior motives, ringing their church bells seven times a day in a Muslim country where spreading the Good News is not permitted. Living it, is.
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