Blessed 7 Monks of Tibhirine
Feastday: May 8
When almost a million French left the country after Algeria's independence in 1962, a few monks moved to a small monastic community in the Atlas to strengthen it. In line with the counter-movement that is monasticism, they followed the opposite path: from France to Algeria, from wealth to poverty, from the Christian familiar to the Islamic unknown.
While in the 1980s thousands of Algerians migrated to Europe as to the Promised Land, the monks remained; in solidarity with the poor villagers of Tibhirine. That village was created during the bloody civil war because residents in the mountains felt safe near the monks.
Gradually, the life of the brothers became intertwined with that of the villagers. Doctor Luc provided free medical care for fifty years, the brothers teached and shared their agricultural land with the local population; they harvested together. While awaiting the construction of a mosque, the monks made a room available as a place for prayer. Sufi Muslims approached them for a joint prayer group, from which an interfaith dialogue arised.
The monastery remained when Algeria gained independence in 1962. Then, in the 1990s, the 'black years' of the Algerian civil crisis came. One hundred thousand people were killed in the battle between the military regime and Islamic groups. The Trappist Monastery of Tibhirine was located on the edge of the most affected area, the Triangle of Death, but remained spared for years. Until that one day in 1996.
On Christmas Eve 1993, armed men invaded the Trappist monastery of Our Lady of the Atlas in Tibhirine (Algeria). The monks were unharmed and decided to stay in solidarity with the Muslims and, if necessary, risk their lives for them too. The brothers gradually discovered what they were called to do: they were a nonviolent testimony of radical loyalty and love that inspired others to a nonviolent response.
On the night of March 26-27, 1996, the seven monks were kidnapped from the monastery, reportedly by Islamists who were increasingly bold in the noisy Algeria of those days. Two months later, the authorities only found their heads. Immediately the world knew what this somewhat unconventional group of Trappists stood for: the ground-breaking brotherhood that refused to back off from the dormant doom of an attack, from the much-heard accusation of naivety and rash virtue. Tibhirine got the sound of martyrdom, but then the martyrdom of love, innocence and hope.
The violent death of the peaceful brothers shocked the whole world. The cause of the murder of seven monks of the Cistercian monastery in Thibirine (Algeria) is still shrouded in mystery today.
On Saturday, December 8, 2018, the seven Trappist monks of Tibhirine in Algeria, murdered in 1996, along with twelve other martyrs, were beatified in the Algerian Marian pilgrimage site of Oran. Cardinal Angelo Becchiu, Prefect of the Congregation for the Sacred and Beatific Processes, presided over the Mass and beatification rite.