The Murdered Monks of Tibhirine

The Murdered Monks of Tibhirine
1996

 

Friends,

When it comes to Resurrection, words fail. Resurrection is simply too impossible and unimaginable for words to describe. When used to convince others of Resurrection, words sound like an “idle tale” (Luke 24:11). The only Resurrection currency that holds its value over time is a changed life. An empty tomb with leftover grave clothes is merely proof of an empty tomb with left over grave clothes. It is not proof of Resurrection. A changed life is the closest thing to “proof” of the Resurrection that there is.

For this reason, I shared the story of the monks at Tibhirine on Easter Sunday. A story I believe to hold Resurrection currency. I read to you the letter written by Trappist Father Christian-Marie de Cherge, one of seven monks slain in Algeria in 1996.  He wrote the letter sometime between December 1, 1993 and January 1, 1994 — between which dates members of the Armed Islamic Group first visited the monastery. It was marked to be opened at his death. The monk’s family sent the letter to France’s daily Catholic newspaper, La Croix, which published the text in full on May 28, 1996.

The deaths of the monks were blamed on Islamic jihadists, but suspicions linger that the Algerian government and possibly the French government too may have been involved. A Time magazine story in 2009 reported that testimony of a retired French general indicates the deaths may have been the result of an Algerian military operation gone awry. The bodies of the monks were never found.

Here is the letter:

“If it should happen one day—and it could be today—that I become a victim of the terrorism which now seems ready to encompass all the foreigners 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.

I ask them to accept that the One Master of all life was not a stranger to this brutal departure.

I ask them to pray for me: for how could I be found worthy of such an offering?

I ask them to be able to associate such a death with the many other deaths that were just as violent, but forgotten through indifference and 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, even in that which would strike me blindly.

I should like, when the time comes, to have a clear space which would allow me to beg forgiveness of God and of all my fellow human beings, and at the same time to forgive with all my heart the one who would strike me down.

I could not desire such a death. It seems to me important to state this.

I do not see, in fact, how I could rejoice if this people I love were to be accused indiscriminately of my murder. It would be to pay too dearly for what will, perhaps, be called “the grace of martyrdom,” to owe it to an Algerian, whoever he may be, especially if he says he is acting in fidelity to what he believes to be Islam.

I know the scorn with which Algerians as a whole can be regarded. I know also the caricature of Islam which a certain kind of Islamism encourages.

It is too easy to give oneself a good conscience by identifying this religious way with the fundamentalist ideologies of the extremists.

For me, Algeria and Islam are something different; they are a body and a soul.

I have proclaimed this often enough, I believe, in the sure knowledge of what I have received in Algeria, in the respect of believing Muslims—finding there so often that true strand of the Gospel I learned at my mother’s knee, my very first Church.

My death, clearly, will appear to justify those who hastily judged me naïve or idealistic: “Let him tell us now what he thinks of it!”

But these people must realize that my most avid curiosity will then be satisfied.

This is what I shall be able to do, if God wills—immerse my gaze in that of the Father, to contemplate with him his children of Islam just as he sees them, all shining with the glory of Christ, the fruit of his Passion, filled with the Gift of the Spirit, whose secret joy will always be to establish communion and to refashion the likeness, delighting in the differences.

For this life given up, totally mine and totally theirs, I thank God who seems to have wished it entirely for the sake of that joy in everything and in spite of everything.

In this “thank you,” which is said for everything in my life from now on, I certainly include you, friends of yesterday and today, and you my friends of this place, along with my mother and father, my brothers and sisters and their families—the hundredfold granted as was promised!

And you also, the friend of my final moment, who would not be aware of what you were doing. Yes, for you also I wish this “thank you”—and this adieu—to commend you to the God whose face I see in yours.

And may we find each other, happy “good thieves,” in Paradise, if it pleases God, the Father of us both. Amen”.

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Easter is serious

 

If we kill the truth-tellers

their truth will be resurrected ten-fold

in the  generations to come. 

Long live the Truth, long live.

 

Friends,

“Easter is serious. Easter is a demand as well as
a promise. Easter demands not sympathy for the crucified Lord but loyalty to the risen one; it
demands an end to all our complicity in crucifixion.”

– William Sloane Coffin

 

Easter is serious because to trust in its truth is to affirm that the way of Jesus really is the way of Life. It is to affirm Jesus’ teaching and lived example which pretty much goes against almost all the accepted wisdom of the world.

Like:
Welcome-in strangers. Hang-out with outcasts. Tell the truth regardless. Better to help someone lying in a ditch on a dangerous road than make it in time for church. Don’t hit back. You don’t own what you have. Give and give again without counting the cost. Worry not about tomorrow—not even today. Pray all night. Fall in love with the people who hate you. Fear no-one. Forgive people who are wrong—even if they are really, really wrong. Forgive again. Serve all people—especially the “least”. Make friends with the poor.

This is serious stuff. Easter is serious stuff.

Joyfully disturbed by resurrection,
Alan

On this day of Resurrection I invite you to slowly wander through this poem by the Brazilian liberation theologian, Rubem Alves.

What is hope?
It is a presentiment that imagination is more real
and reality less real
than it looks.

It is a hunch that the overwhelming brutality of facts
that oppress and repress
is not the last word.

It is a suspicion that reality is more complex
than realism wants us to believe
and that the frontiers of the possible are not determined

by the limits of the actual
and that in a miraculous and unexpected way
life is preparing the creative events
which will open the way to freedom and resurrection . . .

The two, suffering and hope, live from each other.
Suffering without hope produces resentment and despair,
hope without suffering creates illusions, naiveté,
and drunkenness . . .

Let us plant dates
even though those who plant them will never eat them.

We must live by the love of what we will never see.
This is the secret discipline.

It is a refusal to let the creative act be dissolved
in immediate sense experience
and a stubborn commitment to the future of our grandchildren.

Such disciplined love is what has given
prophets, revolutionaries and saints
the courage to die for the future they envisaged.

They make their own bodies the seed of their
highest hope.

– Rubem Alves, Brazil

 

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Crucifying Friday


Friends,

On this Crucifying Friday we gather to remember Jesus’ Crucifixion that took place long ago and as we do, we gather to name and engage the crucifixions of our time. Christ is crucified again and again … and again! Remember when the Spirit of Jesus confronted the persecuting Saul on that Damascus road? Jesus did not say, “Why are you persecuting them?” He said, “Why are you persecuting me?” In other words Jesus takes what we do to each other personally. This is especially true when the most vulnerable are the victims. As Jesus said, “What you do to the least of these you do to me.”

Therefore Jesus’ Crucifixion 2 000 years ago is more than a historical event. It is an archetypal lens. It is the Crucifixion archetype that is true the world over. According to the Crucifixion archetype whenever expedient politicians (backed by an unquestioning military), oligarch influencers and a self-serving religious establishment get together, society is soon to be littered with crucifixions of the poor and vulnerable who are scapegoated for the sins of this unholy trinity.

The Crucifixion archetype further reveals that people (especially religious people) have a tendency to crucify today’s messiahs while worshipping the messiahs of yesteryear. It is a perverse form of salvation (liberation) nostalgia that is a stumbling block to salvation (liberation) in the present. In other words we act like Herod today while praising Jesus of long ago. We act like Pharaoh today while praising Moses of even longer ago. We act like the KKK today while praising MLK jr. We act like the Apartheid regime today while we sing praises about the liberation struggle. We steal from the pensions of the poor while we call for radical economic transformation. Beneath the rhetoric of our worship we hide our acts of betrayal. And even this can be hidden from ourselves, such are the depths of our self-deception.

If Jesus’ Crucifixion recorded in the gospels does not illuminate the crucifixions recorded in today’s newspapers then we are denying the Crucifixion of old by the way we remember it.

This is true all over the world. This year we think especially of the civilian executions and bombed out communities of Ukraine. We think too of the economic war against the unemployed poor of our own land (See Sunday post from two weeks ago).

Today we gather beneath the wondrous Cross of the wounded one…

I invite you to carve out time today to name and hold vigil with the wounded of the world. Those who literally carry the sins (deathly actions) of the world in their living…

With grace, Alan

The Last Shall Be First

Along the way the pilgrims heard
        that a group of people
had set out for Jerusalem
        without a map.
Since each of us owned
        our own map
and read it daily
        and even then
had difficulty knowing
        which way to turn,
we were amazed
that they would set out
        on their own …
amazed and alarmed.

Many a day we had
        prayed and consulted
over choices
        in the road.
This news presented
        a greater dilemma:
Which of us would go
        in the rescue party?
Whoever went would
        most certainly
not get to Jerusalem
        on time.

Distraught,
        we prayed.
Then it was we realised
        that the ones who went
in search of the lost
        would be the first
to arrive in Jerusalem.

Certain in-charge church people
        expound upon the finer points of doctrine
while the disenfranchised await the verdict.

Meanwhile the holy fools rush in
       and touch the outcasts,
creating Good News once again.

Certain in-charge church people
       expound upon the finer points of doctrine
while the disenfranchised await the verdict.

Meanwhile the holy fools rush in
      and touch the outcasts,
creating Good News once again.

Ann Weems

 

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Press Statement: State Capture Crucifies

PRESS STATEMENT                                                                                                    14-04-2022

State Capture Crucifies

On Good Friday the Central Methodist Mission in Cape Town will raise this Yellow Banner on its steeple.

It reads:

We raise this banner on Good Friday to highlight the crucifying consequences of State capture. The people involved in State capture not only have dirty hands. They have blood on their hands. They are guilty of theft and the deaths that ensue from their theft. State capture makes a handful of people obscenely rich at the cost of making millions of people excruciatingly poorer. Among these are the vulnerable poor who die from all manner of lack. There are many ways to kill someone. Stealing money that was intended to provide life-giving services is one way. It is often a tortuously ‘slow’ death and those responsible are seldom caught, let alone convicted, for it is difficult to find their fingerprints at the scene, but we want them to know that like Pilate of old, no amount of hand washing will remove the blood stains from their hands. As the prophet Jeremiah says: “The acted shamefully, yet were not ashamed, they did not know how to blush…Therefore they shall fall.” [Jeremiah 6:15].

We say blessed are the whistle-blowers who risk their lives to tell the truth. These whistle-blowers are the real freedom fighters of our day. We grieve for the whistle-blowers who have been killed while knowing that a bullet cannot kill the truth they have spoken.

A WARNING from history to those who continue to live in shameless denial of their State capture crimes: the truth has a strange and powerful way of resurrecting.

Contact person: Alan Storey

The Yellow Banner will be raised at 11:30 on Friday 15th April.

 

 

 

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