Seven Trappists of the Monastery of Atlas, Tibhirine, Algeria, were kidnapped on March 27, 1996 by the Armed Islamic Group: Fr. Christian Marie de Chergé, prior, Brothers Luc Dochier, Michel Fleury, and Paul Favre Miville, and Frs. Celestine Ringeard, Bruno Lemarchand, and Christophe Lebreton. They were killed on May 21 and their death was announced two days later. Recently a movie was released on their lives and death – “Of Gods and Men” – which has been acclaimed by many. I hope to get a copy and see it sometime.
Their prior, Fr. Christian Marie de Chergé, wrote a moving testament in 1993 that was not to be opened until his death. The text can be found here, but this extract reveals a spirituality of love, commitment, and forgiveness.
“If it were ever to happen — and it could happen any day — that I should be the victim of the terrorism which seems to be engulfing all the foreigners now living in Algeria, I would like my community, my church, my family to remember that my life was given to God and to this country.
“That they accept that the unique Master of all life will be no stranger to such a brutal departure.
“That they pray for me: for how should I prove worthy of such an offering?
“That they understand that such a death should be linked to so many others, equally violent, but which remain masked by the anonymity of indifference.
“My life has no greater worth than that of another. Nor is it worth any less. . . .
“I have lived long enough to recognize that I am caught up as an accomplice in the evil which, alas, seems to prevail in the world, even which might strike me blindly.
“At such a moment, I would like to have enough lucidity left to beg God’s pardon and that of all my fellow human beings, while pardoning with all my heart anyone who might have hurt me.”
Addressing his possible future executioner he wrote:
“And you too, my last minute friend, who will not know what you are doing, Yes, for you too I say this THANK YOU AND THIS “A-DIEU”-—to commend you to this God in whose face I see yours. And may we find each other, happy “good thieves” in Paradise, if it please God, the Father of us both. . . AMEN!”
This is truly a message for troubled times in the Mid-East and in the world.
The full text of the prior’s letter can be found here.