Dilatato Corde 1:1
January – June, 2011

Completing the Story of "Des hommes et des dieux"

Introductory Note
This article is an edited version of a talk given by Frère Ivo Dujardin OCSO after a showing of the film "Des hommes et des dieux" (English title: "Of Gods and Men") that was sponsored by the Unione Internazionale delle Superiore Generaliin Rome on November 4, 2010 . Frère Ivo is a member of the Historical Committee established by the major superiors of the nineteen men and women who lost their lives in Algeria between 1994 and 1996. The committee was formed to begin a diocesan process for the beatification of all nineteen. He was also charged by Dom Bernardo Olivera, Abbot General of the Trappists, to help the Postulator of the Order, Mother Augusta Tescari of the monastery of Vitochiano, classify the documents, news items, and statements that she had gathered together.
At the end of the article there is a link to a clip from the film.


Des hommes et des dieux, Xavier Beauvois’ poignant cinematic portrayal of the seven French Trappist monks who were abducted and slain in Algeria in 1996, is a film that takes time to assimilate. Its coda (to use a musical term) is hidden and mysterious; it stays with us, accompanying our thoughts and feelings, calling forth an echo in our hearts. We need time to let the film—and the Lord—offer us its final word and bring its melody to completion. My purpose here is not to share my impressions about the spiritual value, the human depth, or the aesthetic qualities of this film. At the same time, I have to say that we cannot help being filled with wonder and gratitude when we realize that the message of the life and death of our Brothers has been made known to a worldwide audience extending from Canada to New Zealand. Indeed, what we have here is a kind of “spiritual globalization,” a spreading of the Gospel to the ends of the earth. By presenting the story of the life and death of the Brothers of Tibhirine, the film encourages, even provokes, people “to love and good deeds” (see Hebrews 10:24). This has happened even though the announcement of plans to make a film about the Brothers of Tibhirine was received with fear by their families and uneasiness by their religious order.

Before proceeding any further, I need to say that I am not a specialist in interreligious dialogue—or in any other area, for that matter. I am simply one of the countless men and women who were moved to tears by the announcement of the death of our Brothers in Algeria.

After weeks of anxious and fearful waiting, our hopes were shattered by the terrible news that the seven French Trappist monks of Tibhirine who had been abducted during the night of March 26/27, 1996, were executed on May 21. A few days later, the whole world was able to read the heart-rending testament of Christian, the prior of the community, which his family made public. It did not leave anyone untouched, not even Muslims.

In my reflections on the life and death of the monks of Tibhirine, I will often let the Brothers speak for themselves. I will also make use of authors who have meditated on Tibhirine and who can help us better understand the Brothers’ participation in the Paschal Mystery and what their witness means for the Church and for the entire world. At times I may give the impression that I am doing little more than stringing together a collage of texts, but I feel I must make ample use of citations because the film itself is incomplete. If it is to be understood, if its message is to be brought to completion, it will be necessary to have read and meditated on at least some of the texts that the monks themselves wrote or that were written about them.
The Brothers of Tibhirine among the Nineteen Witnesses of Algeria
From the years 1994 to 1996 nineteen men and women gave their lives in Algeria; all but three of them were French. In chronological order they were a Marist brother, a Little Sister of the Assumption, two Spanish Missionary Augustinian Sisters, four White Fathers, one of whom was Belgian, two Sisters of Our Lady of the Apostles, a Little Sister of the Sacred Heart, seven Trappist monks, and finally a Dominican, Pierre Claverie, the bishop of Oran.
In this group the seven Trappist monks hold a special place. This is not because their love or even their ultimate sacrifice were somehow greater than the love and sacrifice of the others.

Rather, it is because their lives and their death were so public. It was as if the Lord had called them to be witnesses in the “external forum,” and not just in the “internal forum” where personal decisions are made. The public nature of their life and death was expressed in various ways:

• They were a small group of men who had on-going contacts with three other groups: the villagers, the military, and the GIA (Groupe Islamique Armé);
• They received three distinct warnings: the official warning given to all foreigners; the killing, on December 14, 1993, of some Croatian laborers who were working near the monastery; a visit from the GIA on Christmas 1993;
• They lived at Tibhirine for more than three years after the visit of the GIA on Christmas Eve 1993;
• They left a well-documented account of how they came to a personal and communal decision about whether to leave or to stay;
• They were held in captivity for almost two months before they were killed;
• The news of their death shocked the entire world;
• Christian’s testament was made public;
• Frère Luc’s special role in the life of the community became known.

On the other hand, how the other Algerian martyrs dealt with the possibility that they would be killed if they remained in Algeria was much more personal and hidden; that is to say, it was something that took place in the “internal forum.”

The way in which the Brothers of Tibhirine became witnesses—martyrs—leads me to believe that their ultimate vocation was to be witnesses for the entire world. The most recent expression of this calling is Des hommes et des dieux. By means of this film, the witness they gave at the local level has become a word offered to a world looking for intercultural and interreligious peace. We might say that the Tibhirine community, while maintaining creative fidelity to the Cistercian monastic charism, has become a symbol—a parable—of the manifold expression of the Church’s missionary presence throughout the world, whether that be in perilous or in more peaceful surroundings.

The Dialogue of Life 
Others have noted that up until the present time interreligious dialogue has been implemented and developed primarily at the theological, academic, cultural, and even political levels. Such high-level expressions of dialogue will always be meaningful and important and have already borne much fruit.

Frère Christian prepared for this kind of dialogue by two years of study of Arabic and Islam at the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies (PISAI) in Rome (1972-74), and he then engaged in this form of dialogue on one or the other occasion. For example, in 1986 he attended the interreligious encounter that Pope John Paul II held in Assisi and also took part in other interreligious meetings. We have the texts of conferences in which he offered theological and prophetic reflections on the meeting between the Church and Islam.

Regrettably, this “official” version of interreligious dialogue is, for the most part, still confined to the intellectual and political spheres of religion and society. It has not yet come into contact with the actual life of ordinary people, both Muslims and Christians.

At Tibhirine, on the other hand, interreligious dialogue did take place between ordinary Christians and Muslims. It was quite different from the high-level dialogue just referred to, and it mainly happened at meetings of a group known as the Ribât es Salâm, “the bond of peace,” which some of the Brothers attended. The members of this Islamo-Christian group met twice a year, not for theological discussions, but to share with one another what they had experienced over the previous six months in their reflection on a particular theme that was common to both religions. Frère Christian was the co-founder of the Ribât es Salâm’ [1] In fact, twelve members of the Ribât had come to the monastery on March 26, 1996. It was their first gathering since the rebels’ Christmas visit of 1993, and they were in the guest quarters when the monks were abducted in the middle of the night. [2]

In 1989, on the occasion of a presentation he made at the “Journées de Rome,” [3] Christian explained the significance of Ribât as follows:

Yes, we can expect something new every time we make an effort to decipher the “signs” of God on the “horizons” of worlds and hearts by simply listening to and learning from the other, the Muslim in this case. That is precisely the objective of our Ribât, which, from its beginnings ten years ago (March 1979), was fashioned according to the intuition of Max Thurian, an intuition that is very close to that of our friends from Medea. According to Thurian, “It is important for the Church to offer Islam a fraternal presence of men and women who, insofar as this is possible, share the life of Muslims in silence, prayer, and friendship. That is how, little by little, we prepare the way for the kind of relationship God wants the Church to have with Islam.” (Tradition et renouveau dans l’Esprit [Taizé, 1977], p.14). [4]

In the film there are a number of scenes that show how close a relationship the Brothers of Tibhirine had with ordinary people.

In his book about the transfer of the Algerian Atlas monastery to Morocco and its continuance there, Raymond Mengus, a theologian from Strasbourg writes:

The highest level of relations between religions is called dialogue. The reason for this should be clear. Yes, we must strive for this highest level of dialogue, the level to which responsible and faithful specialists have to ascend. When this level of dialogue is not possible, we should take care to nurture the relations that spring from the give and take of our everyday lives, from our interaction with our neighbors, our interest in the lives of others, our cooperation and daily conversation with others. These humble realities are within the reach of any man or woman of good will. Sometimes we will grace this kind of exchange with a beautiful name – the “dialogue of life.” We do this by way of anticipation, in the hope that one day we will deserve better.
But what if this form of dialogue really deserved its name? What if it were not a preparation, but the summit? Because it is there, at this summit, that everything is seen with greater clarity and that better decisions are made. [5]

Elsewhere in his book the author takes from the correspondence of Louis Massignon (1883-1962) a passage in which we find some harsh statements that will have to be forgiven:

What one should do is to go it alone as Foucauld did, [not in the desert but] in a village where one can gently win over women and children through one’s daily presence and interaction. It is by means of such simple and everyday actions that a profound entrance into a society takes place, rather than by the intellectual twaddle of those who, upon leaving, go back to their old ways of thinking, I doubt that religious orders would allow any of their members to become involved in this kind of ordinary interaction with people, and yet, where else can people be found to engage in such activity except in religious orders? What is essential is giving an example of a very simple life by calmly accepting the present moment and the consequences of unexpected events. All else is nothing but words for a conference on missiology. [6]

This kind of thinking led Blessed Charles de Foucauld to dedicate all his fraternities to the Blessed Virgin Mary in the mystery of the Visitation, even though no such fraternity was yet in existence! It might be noted that Frère Christian began to write his testament on the first day of December, the anniversary of the death in 1916 of the hermit of Tamanrasset. For Frère Christian too, “the mystery of the Visitation has become an almost patronal feast of the community since its beginning.” [7] He referred to it several times. I offer just one text, recorded at a retreat he gave to the Little Sisters of Jesus in November 1990: “Thus we are invited to remain continuously in a state of visitation, like Mary with Elizabeth, to magnify the Lord for what He has accomplished in ‘the other’ . . . and in me.” [8] When Christian uses “the other” in passages like this, he means the Muslim. Christian pictures us in a situation similar to that of Mary, who carries “a living secret,” the Good News that gives life, when she goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth. He imagines that Mary is troubled, not knowing how to go about revealing this secret . . . which is also God’s secret.

We have come here a bit like Mary. . . . First to render service. . . . In the end, that is her principal desire, but she also brings the Good News [which she received from the angel at the Annunciation]. . . . But how do we go about telling the Good News? . . . We know that those we have come to “meet” are somewhat like Elizabeth, they are carriers of a “message” that comes from God. . . . Our Church does not tell us, does not know, what is the exact link between the Good News that we bring and the “message” that gives life to the other. . . . My Church does not tell me how I am to understand the link between Christ and Islam, and so I go to the Muslims without knowing what the link is. . . .” [9]

Frère Christian has left us some beautiful examples of this “presence of the Visitation” such as he lived it in his contacts with some of his Muslim friends. Just one example:

Since the day he asked me, quite unexpectedly, to teach him how to pray, M. has gotten into the habit of coming to see me. Thus we have built a longstanding spiritual exchange (I’ve often been forced to keep it short when there were a lot of guests I had to attend to.) One day he discovered that he could get my attention by saying, “It’s been a long time since we have dug our wells!” We use this expression when we feel the need for a deeper level of conversation. Once, in a joking way, I asked him, “And what will we find at the bottom of our well? Muslim water or Christian water?” He looked at me with an expression that was both pained and amused: “You are still asking that question? Do you still not understand that what you find at the bottom of this well is the water of God?” [10]

In 1995, the Union of Major Religious Superiors of Algeria (USMDA) proposed that all communities reflect on the question: “How do we rediscover the charism of our Order in the present time?” The first expression used by the Brothers of Tibhirine to describe their charism was precisely “presence.”

Provide a presence, not a missionary presence, but a contemplative and prayerful presence, the fruit of a community that is stable, united, fraternal, and hard-working (with its associates).
Provide a presence that is unassuming and mysterious; separate from the world but in communion with the people, humbly attentive to the material and spiritual needs of our immediate neighbors. [11]

The keynote of Tibhirine is indeed “presence.” Theirs was a welcoming presence, for they believed that they were themselves welcomed by their neighbors. Their presence was also active and inventive. They were “people who prayed among praying people,” making space available within the monastery grounds for a mosque. They were present through a gardening cooperative in which Frère Christophe worked alongside Muslims, present in the dispensary where Frère Luc sometimes saw as many as 150 persons in a single day, mostly sick people from the neighborhood, but also wounded men from the GIA, present through the work of Frère Paul, the plumber, who would abandon what he was doing to give a neighbor a hand, present through the other Brothers in so many other ways.

In his introduction to Frère Christophe’s journal, Abbot Armand Veilleux writes that the journal offers us “interreligious dialogue as it is lived out in everyday life, and that is the most important and richest kind.” [12] Everywhere you look, you will find at Tibhirine little manifestations of the Brothers’ attentive and friendly regard for their neighbors. Two examples from Christophe’s journal:

What a pleasure to meet Mohammed, Ali, or Moussa. In them the Mystery surfaces simply and purely. The quality of their presence is peaceful, sweet, nourishing.The day before yesterday and yesterday as well, the military spent the night at the school. This morning I met Mohammed. His face was drained and he was still shaking. He had seen them arrive while he was watering his garden.” [13]

There is also an unpublished text of Frère Christian that is extremely eloquent and moving.

Hardly a week after the Christmas visit of 1993, on the eve of putting the finishing touches to the text of his testament, Christian wrote a note to Frère Christophe with an incomplete but unambiguous heading: “Frère Christophe, in case of. . .” It is clear that at that moment – as in his testament, which he also addressed to “my community” – Christian believed he was the only one who ran the risk of being harmed.

In his note to Christophe, Christian first of all provides the telephone numbers of authorities to be alerted. He then offers some suggestions about an eventual evacuation and specifies where he wants to be buried, adding, “I want to lighten my mother’s suffering.” The note continues, “I ask forgiveness of each and every one, and the benevolence of being remembered at the Eucharist.” At the end he writes, “May God accomplish the work begun here. I thank Him for having allowed me, I do believe, to consent to the GIFT, for ALL.”

In the very middle of this note there is a remarkably meaningful phrase that demonstrates the bond of the Brothers with their neighbors: “Think about what might happen to Mohammed and his family, to Ali and our co-workers, and let them see how much you love them. In the event that I should be killed, I would like to remain among them, in the courtyard.”

This “living the ‘encounter of the other’ in daily life” has been described as “the way of Islamo-Christian dialogue par excellence.” [14] The phrase that perfectly describes interreligious dialogue at Tibhirine is “the dialogue of life”: interculturality and interreligiosity put into practice. “Macro dialogue” involves congresses, symposia, academic publications, and the like. The interreligious dialogue practiced by the Brothers of Tibhirine might be termed “micro dialogue,” dialogue at the level of their little community.

Vincent Landel, archbishop of Rabat and President of the Regional Episcopal Conference of North Africa, recently emphasized the importance of this level of dialogue in an interview he gave during the Synod for the Middle East (October 10-24, 2010): “If we want to be able to live in the land of Islam, we must be in communion. If we are not in communion . . . the Muslims will regard us as sects.” It should be added that the theme of the Synod was “The Catholic Church in the Middle East: Communion and Witness.” Proposition 42 of the Synod is very clear: “Christians in the Middle East are called to pursue a fruitful dialogue of life with Muslims.” [15]

Accepting the violence that lives in me
There are conditions that must be fulfilled if one is to live this dialogue of life with “the other.” The Brothers of Tibhirine have given us at least two of them. The first condition—a conditio sine qua non—is that those who wish to promote non-violence in the world must have recognized and accepted the violence in their own heart. Frère Christopher’s journal is a deeply moving testimony of this recognition.

When we read the writings of Frère Christian, we cannot help being struck by his awareness of his own shadow side and his personal faults, of the violence in his heart. Here are a few texts, given in chronological order:

Already in 1978, on the occasion of a conference to priests about prayer, he said,

[I am] a House of Prayer, but this house is also . . . the den of a bandit. . . . The bandit who lives in me sees clearly the haggling and plunder that are part of my consecrated life. He even knows the temptation of making friends by giving them a discount on the goods of eternity. My “house,” then, is the palace of an incorrigible Pharisee—and it should be evident that there are Pharisees on both sides, “on the left” as well as “on the right.” [16]

His last testament, composed on December 1, 1993, and January 1, 1994, also includes a “personal confession” of this interior violence. There we read:

I would like them to be able to associate this death with so many other equally violent ones allowed to fall into the indifference of anonymity. My life has no more value than any other. Nor any less value. In any case, it has not the innocence of childhood. I have lived long enough to know that I share in the evil which seems, alas, to prevail in the world, and even in that which would strike me blindly. I should like, when the time comes, to have a space of lucidity which would enable me to beg forgiveness of God and of my fellow human beings. . . . [17]

In his homily for Holy Thursday, 1995 – the last Holy Week of his life—he said,

God loves human beings so much that he delivered his only Son: and the Word became BROTHER, Brother of Abel as well as of Cain, Brother of Isaac and Ishmael too, Brother of Joseph and his eleven siblings who sold him, Brother of the plain and of the mountain, Brother of Peter, of Judas and of the one and the other in me. [18}

In his final conference, given during a Lenten day of recollection on March 8, 1996, only a few weeks before the abduction, we find this very clear text about love for one’s enemies, based on the Lord’s words in the Sermon on the Mount:

I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. . . . Do we pray enough—without reserve, without frontiers, for everyone? St Paul tells us clearly in the Letter to the Romans: “In time of trouble, stand firm, pray with perseverance.” We cannot stand firm if we do not pray. And our prayer must include confessing the violence, prejudice and rejection that lie deep within us. [19]

He continued his conference by describing how he reacted to the Christmas visit of 1993:

After the Christmas visit, I felt as if I had died, and I needed two or, three weeks to recover. The acceptance of our death happens rather quickly; that’s not something we have to worry about. But to recover our footing once again takes time. After the visit I said to myself, those people, that person with whom I had such a nerve-racking conversation, what prayer can I offer for him? I can’t ask God to kill him. But I can ask God to disarm him. Afterwards, I said to myself, do I have the right to ask God to disarm him if I don’t first ask God to disarm me and disarm my community? This is my daily prayer, and I offer it to you in all simplicity. . . . In order to exorcise the tendency we all have to take sides, to set people up against one other, to say who’s best and who’s worst, we came up with the idea—I now think it was a stroke of genius, but it simply came out of the blue—of calling those who dwell in the mountains—whom others refer to as terrorists—“brothers of the mountain,” and of referring to the armed forces as “brothers of the plain.” (It’s a prudent way to refer to them when you’re on the phone.) This is one way of maintaining fraternity. [20]

Living with the other in community
For the Brothers of Tibhirine, a second condition for entering into an authentic dialogue of life with the other who is Muslim was that their relations with one another be a manifestation of Christian “culture” in daily life.

As has been noted on several occasions, the community of Tibhirine was made up of men who were very different from one another. The photographer Bruno Chenu described this community very well.

Who then are these monks who gave the ultimate expression of love? Not supermen or specialists  in the practice of asceticism and mysticism. This handful of men was representative of the diversity of the human species: intellectuals and manual laborers, the talkative and the taciturn, the impulsive and the serene. The one thing that united them was their search for God in fraternal relation to the Algerian people. [21]

Indeed, the community was a training ground for interculturation. Before the martyrdom of May 21, 1996, they lived the martyrdom of community life. My brother, my sister, is always an “other,” someone who is “different.” Bit by bit, the increasing closeness of the Brothers to their neighbors was paralleled by their closeness to one another. They progressed in the “school of charity” by supporting one another with the greatest patience, as Saint Benedict says. Time was also needed to become aware of and understand Frère Christian’s prophetic views on the meaning and purpose of Christian-Muslim dialogue. Accompanying the Ribât-es-Salâm with Muslims, there was the Ribât-es-Salâm, the bond of peace, among the Brothers themselves, in accord with Saint Paul’s invitation to every Christian: “Do all you can to preserve the Spirit of unity in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).
At Christmas 1993 Dom Bernardo Olivera, the Superior General of the Trappists, began to accompany the Brothers in their discernment process. When Frère Christian asked him at the beginning of March 1994 whether they should stay or leave, he had responded in his typically spontaneous and good-natured way: “The Order needs monks more than martyrs!” Dom Bernardo himself reported the reaction of the prior: “He listened and remained silent. Then he smiled at me and said, ‘The two are not incompatible. . . .’”

The theme of “monks or martyrs,” evoked almost by accident and tentatively, was destined to become a leitmotif for Prior Christian. A few weeks later he preached three homilies for the Easter Triduum: “The Martyrdom of Love”; “The Martyrdom of Innocence”; “The Martyrdom of Hope.” It was also the theme of the morning community meetings of the Brothers during the final months up until a few days before their abduction.

Giving our life for the love of God, in advance and unconditionally, is what we have done . . . or at least what we thought we did. We did so without asking why or how. We gave ourselves to God and let him decide how to use this gift and how to direct it, day after day, to its destiny. Alas, we all have lived long enough to know that we cannot do everything for love, cannot pretend that our life is a witness of love, a “martyrdom” of love. A genius is one who loves, writes Jean d’Ormesson, and Christianity is pure genius. But I am not! From experience we know that small gestures are often very costly, especially when they have to be repeated day in and day out.
We wash the feet of our Brothers on Maundy Thursday, but what would it be like to do this every day, come what may? . . . The martyrdom brought about by all sorts of little things is what makes the monk. We gave our heart “in bulk” to God, and we realize how much this costs us when he accepts it “piecemeal.” Putting on an apron like Jesus did can be as serious and solemn as giving up one’s life . . . and, vice versa, giving up one’s life may be as simple as putting on an apron. . . .
From experience we know that it is easier to give to this one than to that one, to love this brother, this sister, rather than that brother, that sister, even in community. And yet, the professional conscience of doctors and the oath they have taken demand that they nurse anyone who is sick—“even the devil,” Frère Luc would add. Does not our profession of religious vows (our baptismal vows, for that matter) bind us to love everyone, “even the devil,” if God were to ask that of us? [22]

Finally, Dom Bernardo was led to the same conclusion that had been expressed by Frère Christian:

Indeed, what is the use of dreaming of the palm of martyrdom if one does not witness to the Gospel through daily monastic observance? It is by being monks day by day that we are martyrs of the mundane.  Maintaining this witness at a high level in everyday life requires more courage and bravery than to testify once for all through a supreme act, no matter how exalted it may be. [23]

On March 8, 2006 Frère Christian was in Algiers, where, at the insistence of the bishop, he gave what was to be his last public talk. In it he was unequivocal about the challenge that is given to every Christian:

We should be able to ask ourselves: have I eradicated from my heart every form of hatred? We cannot live in the present situation, wishing for peace and life, if we do not give our all to bring it about . . . and no one can say that this is what he has done. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer. There is nothing like community life, social life, family life, to make it clear that there are times and places where murder is being committed. Here the French language can help us, for it has expressions like “hurtful words,” “murderous little comments,” “heavy and menacing silences,” “looks that are lightning bolts,” “eyes like pistols,” “fratricidal gestures.” . . . Other languages must have similar words. There are so many ways of hurting others, and even of killing them. [24]

Conclusion: An Appeal
Tibhirine’s message of radical faithfulnesses and love till death must not to be forgotten. We wish to memorialize the witness of this community by observing March 26 and May 21 as days of remembrance. We want Tibhirine to be more than just an astonishing and admirable story on the list of an Order’s great accomplishments, an award-winning film at the Cannes Festival, or a precious relic in a museum.

The journalist René Guitton calls the Brothers precursors of good relations between Christians and Muslims. They are a guiding light for us all. In a piece he wrote after the deaths of the monks of Tibhirine and of Cardinal Duval—which was, in fact, to be his last editorial for the diocesan paper—Pierre Claverie, the bishop of Oran and the last of the nineteen martyrs of Algeria, said, “Their death is a fulfillment and a summons. If today we still meditate on their witness, we do so because what they fulfilled cannot be separated from what they call us to do.”

An Algerian mother shall have the last word. This is what she wrote to Archbishop Teissier, a few days after the publication of Christian’s testament in La Croix.

After that tragedy, that sacrifice that has so deeply affected you and us, after our tears and after the message about life, honor and tolerance left behind by our brother monks for us and for you, I decided to read Christian’s testament to my children and to do so with feeling, because I felt that it was meant for us all. I wanted to tell my children about the love of God and the love of these men. The path of human solidarity and of love for the other leads to sacrifice, to eternal rest, to fulfillment. My children and I are greatly moved by this expression of deep humility, magnanimity, peace of soul and forgiveness.
Christian’s testament is more than a message; it is a legacy, a shining sun that is bequeathed to us at the cost of great sacrifice.
Our duty is to continue on the way of peace, on the way of love for God and for human beings in all their diversity. We must water the seeds our monks have bequeathed to us so that multi-colored and aromatic flowers may spring up everywhere.
Through its presence among us the Christian Church continues to construct with us an Algeria of religious freedom and diversity, of the universal and the human. It is a beautiful bouquet and a great blessing, for us and for everyone.


[1 ]Jean-Pierre Flachaire, ocso, “Notre-Dame de l’Atlas en Afrique du Nord : une présence de visitation selon Christian de Chergé,” Collectanea Cisterciensia, 67(2005) 199.

[2] See John Kaiser, Passion pour l’Algérie. Les moines de Tibhirine (Bruyères-le-Châtel: Nouvelle Cité, 2006), p. 314.

[3] The “Journées Romaines Dominicaines” is a gathering of Dominican women and men living in Muslim countries or working with the Muslim community elsewhere that is held every four years.

 [4] Sept vies pour Dieu et l’Algérie, Textes recueillis et présentés par Bruno Chenu (Paris: Bayard/Centurion, 1996), pp. 35-36.

 [5] Raymond Mengus, Un signe sur la montagne. Que vit-on à Notre-Dame de l’Atlas? ( Paris: Salvator, 2008), p. 111. The author continues: “. . . In the last analysis, the intellectual confrontation of our religious ideas, if it stops at and is satisfied with an intellectual exercise, can end up being nothing but dogmaticism. Rather, show me your humanity (and I will show you my God). I am certainly interested in your way of representing God, but what is even more important to me is how these concepts affect the way you live your life. We can go even farther. We will not be judged on the basis of our ideas, and still less on appearances. The first and last word is about something else. We will be judged on our love. And by love.”

[6] Ibid., pp. 42-43.

 [7] Jean-Pierre Flachaire, ocso, “Notre-Dame de l’Atlas en Afrique du Nord: une présence de visitation selon Christian de Chergé,” Collectanea Cisterciensia 67 (2005) 197.

 [8] Ibid., p. 199.

 [9] Ibid., p. 200.

[10] Sept Vies,  46.

[11] Ibid., p.176

[12] Christophe Lebreton, Le souffle du don, journal de frère Christophe, moine de Tibhirine, 8 août 1993 – 19 mars 1996 (Paris: Bayard/Centurion, 1999),  p. 9.

[13] Ibid., pp. 59, 107.

[14] Un signe sur la montagne, p. 110.

[15] The full text of Proposition 42 reads as follows:
Islam. The Declaration of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Nostra aetate, alongside the
pastoral letters of the Eastern Catholic Patriarchs, serves as the basis for the Catholic Church's relations with Muslims. As Pope Benedict XVI has said: ‘Interreligious and intercultural dialogue between Christians and Muslims cannot be educed to an optional extra. It is in fact a vital necessity, on which in large measure our future depends’ (Pope Benedict XVI, ‘Meeting with representatives of Muslim Communities’, Cologne, 20 August 2005).
In the Middle East, Christians share a common life and a common destiny with Muslims.
Together they build up society. It is important to promote the notion of citizenship, the dignity of the human person, equal rights and duties and religious freedom, including both freedom of worship and freedom of conscience.
Christians in the Middle East are called to pursue a fruitful dialogue of life with Muslims. They
are to take care to show an attitude of esteem and love, leaving aside every negative prejudice. Together, Christians and Muslims, they are called upon to discover their respective religious values. They are to offer the world an image of a positive encounter and a fruitful collaboration between believers of the two religions, combating together every sort of fundamentalism and violence in the name of religion.
Available on the Vatican website.
Accessed December 4, 2010.

[16] Christian de Chergé, L’invincible espérance (Paris: Bayard/Centurion, 1997), pp. 54-55.

[17] Sept vies, 210 ; L’invincible espérance, 222.

[18] L’invincible espérance, 254.

[19] Ibid., 313.

[20] Ibid., 316.

[21] Sept vies, 6

[22] L’invincible espérance, 228-229.

[23] Bernardo Olivera, Jusqu’où suivre ? Les martyrs de l’Atlas (Paris: Cerf;  Saint-Maur: Parole et Silence, 1997), p. 135.

[24] L’invincible espérance, 307-308.

"Des hommes et des dieux"

A clip from the film with English subtitles. (Accessed January 9, 2011)

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