Last night, I watched on cable TV the 2010 award-winning French film “Of Gods and Men,” which is based on real events involving a small community of Trappist monks in Algeria in 1995. It is a period of civil war with Islamic extremists trying to impose their will on the local population. The monks must decide if they are going to stay among the villagers who accept them and who depend on them for some things like medical aid. I won’t spoil the ending, but can say that this is a film that makes you examine your soul about core beliefs and courage.
Here’s a piece of dialogue from the film that I found online. It occurs as a voice-over during a crucial turning point in the story. I admire the dignity and humane quality of the monk characters, but I’m probably not evolved enough as a person to follow the path they chose. Christian is the leader of the Trappist community.
Christian: [Voice-over] Should it ever befall me, and it could happen today, to be a victim of the terrorism swallowing up all foreigners here, I would like my community, my church, my family, to remember that my life was given to God and to his country. That the Unique Master of all life was no stranger to this brutal departure. And that my death is the same as so many other violent ones, consigned to the apathy of oblivion. I’ve lived enough to know, I am complicit in the evil that, alas, prevails over the world and the evil that will smite me blindly. I could never desire such a death. I could never feel gladdened that these people I love be accused randomly of my murder. I know the contempt felt for the people here, indiscriminately. And I know how Islam is distorted by a certain Islamism. This country, and Islam, for me are something different. They’re a body and a soul. My death, of course, will quickly vindicate those who call me naïve or idealistic, but they must know that I will be freed of a burning curiosity and, God willing, will immerse my gaze in the Father’s and contemplate with him his children of Islam as he sees them. This thank you which encompasses my entire life includes you, of course, friends of yesterday and today, and you too, friend of last minute, who knew not what you were doing. Yes, to you as well I address this thank you and this farewell which you envisaged. May we meet again, happy thieves in Paradise, if it pleases God the Father of us both. Amen. Insha’Allah.