It's a discussion for another day as to why those entrusted with the delivery of news so stubbornly refuse to cover the very deadly war being waged at this very moment against Christianity in the Middle East. The aggressors are radical Islamists, the victims Christians, especially those wearing the cloth. Every week, another report detailing another attack seeps through the wall of non-information, of men condemned to death in Saudi Arabia for the crime of conversion, of Catholic churches bombed in Baghdad on Christmas Day, of Coptic congregations slaughtered in Egypt and the like.
Sad and troubling to be sure, but it's over there ... over there. Do you have any recollection of the story 15 years ago of the small community of Trappist monks in Algeria kidnapped in a prisoner-exchange plot and then murdered? To the extent I was aware of the brutal story, it was something I quickly filed away in the memory banks under "Oh, dear." Nothing more.
French filmmaker Xavier Beauvois challenges us to remember. He has delivered the hauntingly beautiful "Of Gods and Men," winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. "Schindler's List" was aimed at your heart; "Of Gods and Men" captures your soul.
The movie tells the story of Brother Christian and his half-dozen fellow monks, mostly elderly, as so many monastic congregations are, living the simplest of lives in impoverished and violent Algeria in 1996. Their Trappist vows mandated a life providing basic medical needs to the Muslim peasants in the village Tibhirine; of producing and marketing simple produce like honey for their own sustenance; of prayer and song in their little chapel; of contemplation and of silence.
But that world is shattered by Islamic terrorism. In the one and only grisly scene, a few Croatians are repairing a local road when a convoy of jeeps, with engines roaring and tires squealing, emerge. The terrorists dismount, grab the foreigners, innocent and unarmed, and viciously slit their throats.
The news reaches the monks. They know that as "infidels," they are now marked men. They know the government, corrupt and murderous in its own right, is equally threatening. If they stay, it is only a matter of time. They will be killed. The villagers plead for them to leave.