This year has seen a large number of killings of Christians by religious extremists. But this is not new.
In the 1990s Algeria experienced a wave of killings of Christians, among them seven Trappists of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Atlas in Tibhirine. Their story – a witness of God’s presence in the midst of an Islamic country – is beautifully told in several books and in the movie Of Gods and Men.
In December 1993, the prior, Fr. Christian-Marie de Chergé, OCSO, wrote a letter that was to be opened only at his death.
He and six other Trappists were kidnapped and then killed on May 21, 1996.
These words of Dom Christian’s letter deserve our meditation in the midst of calls for violence and revenge:
“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.”
In the final words he addresses his assassin with words that speak of a heart full of God’s love for all:
“And also you, my last-minute friend, who will not have known what you were doing:
“Yes, I want this THANK YOU and this GOODBYE to be a ‘GOD-BLESS’ for you, too,
because in God’s face I see yours.
“May we meet again as happy thieves in Paradise, if it please God, the Father of us both.
“AMEN ! INCHALLAH ! “