On March 26, 1996, just outside Algiers, a group calling itself The Armed Islamic Group broke into Our Lady of the Atlas monastery and took hostage seven of the nine Trappist monks living there. They demanded the release of members of their group that were being held in France and in Algiers in exchange for the seven monks. After two months of captivity and no favorable response from French and Algerian authorities, the seven monks were beheaded by their Muslim captors.
I wrote this post for several reasons. Number one, I love Catholic monks. They present to me - with great authenticity and tangible reassurance - that God is real and not make-believe. They live their days away from the hustle and bustle of secular operations, not so they can keep YOU out of their way but rather to keep themselves out of yours. Another reason is that these group of murdered men have largely been ignored by Catholic sources I expect to observe and remind us of the vile and infuriating act of savagery they were victims of.
The monks of Our Lady of the Atlas were under constant death threats from various groups to leave their monastery and Algiers. But because they felt a strong commitment to their community and had an established presence in the area, they ignored those threats and continued with their way of life. When civil war tore Algiers apart, these monks cared for the sick (one of the monks was a doctor) and they visited their Arab neighbors. After their murders, a letter by prior Father Christian de Cherge was made public. He ends this letter by addressing the man he knew someday would kill him:
"And you too, the friend of my final moment, who would not have known what you were doing,Yes, for you too I say this THANK YOU and this "A-DIEU" to commend you to the 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!"