This fall Paraclete will publish The Last Monk of Tibhirine
– the story of Jean-Pierre Schumacher, now the only surviving monk from Our Lady of Atlas
monastery where seven monks were abducted and killed by Algerian terrorists in 1996.
I just finished reading the manuscript copy and what struck me the most was the humble commitment that led these monks to remain in Algeria and simply be present with their neighbors in a time of unchecked violence in their country. Their goal had never been to convert their Muslim neighbors – but to simply show Christ’s love and live alongside them. I have been thinking a lot about a portion of the last testament written by Prior Christian just before the abduction, where he says that he saw himself as an accomplice of evil in the world. He depicts it as “sitting down at the table of the sinners.” As it is described “all of us deserve part of the blame for everything that goes wrong in the family of mankind, and it is our duty to change this and to heal. If we neglect doing this, if we do not take action and carry out the task that we have been given, then we are jointly responsible for the result.”
I am so struck by the humility of these thoughts. I so often get angry about this or that, and it take me quite a while to discover what I need to take responsibility for in a situation. These monks were quietly going about their business, believing themselves to be doing the will of God, but at the same time meditating on the evil in all human hearts and its contribution to the violence around us. They felt that their task, as an antidote to violence in their country was simply to remain. Even after the death of seven out of nine members of their monastery, the two remaining monks at the time continued on and reopened their monastery in Morocco with a few others, with the hope to return to Algeria in the future.
Actions speak louder than words in a way that is profound.