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Christians in the Muslim World

The Testament of Father Christian De Chergé

A view of the Atlas Mountains where Tibhirine is located [hans.slegers /]

The letter written two years before his death by the Tibhirine abbey’s prior, killed along with six other monks in 1996 in Algeria

Last update: 2018-02-02 13:10:43

Algiers, 1 December 1993/Tibhirine, 1 January 1994


If one day (and it could even be today) I should become a victim of the terrorism that seems now to want to involve all the foreigners that live in Algeria, I would like my community, my Church, and my family, to remember that my life was given to God and to this country.


To accept that the sole Master of every life cannot be made extraneous to this brutal conflict. To pray for me: how could I be found worthy of this offering? To know how to associate this death with so many other equally violent ones that are left in the indifference of anonymity. My life does not have a higher price than any other life.


It is worth no less and no more than any other life. Whatever the case, it does not have the innocence of childhood. I have lived enough to consider myself an accomplice of the evil that seems, alas, to prevail in the world, and also of that evil may strike me out of nowhere.


I would like, if the moment comes, to have that flash of lucidity that allows to solicit the forgiveness of God and the forgiveness of my brethren in humanity, and at the same time to forgive with all my heart those who have wounded me. I cannot hope for a death of that kind. It seems to me important to declare this. Indeed. I do not see how I could be happy at the fact that a people that I love were indistinctly accused of my murder. For what they will perhaps call the ‘grace of martyrdom’, to owe that grace to some Algerian, above all if he says that he acts out of faith to what he believes to be Islam, would be too high a price to pay.


I well know the contempt with which the Algerians taken as a whole have come to be dismissed. I also know the caricature of Islam that a certain kind of Islamism encourages.


It is too easy to put one’s conscience at rest by identifying this religion with the forms of fundamentalism of its extremists. Because Algeria and Islam are another thing, they are a body and a soul. I have proclaimed enough, I believe, in front of everyone, what I have received from Islam, finding in it so often the central recurrent theme of the Gospel that was learnt when I was on the lap of my mother (the whole of my first Church), specifically in Algeria, and, already then, with all my respect for Muslim believers.


Evidently enough, my death will seem to vindicate those who have seen me in precipitate fashion as being a naif or an idealist: ‘tell us now what you think!’ But these people must know that my most piercing curiosity will be finally resolved.


Thus, God willing, I will be able to immerge my gaze in that of the Father in order to contemplate with Him His children of Islam as He sees them, totally illuminated by the glory of Christ, the fruits of his Passion, invested with the gift of the Spirit, whose secret joy will always be to establish communion, to re-establish likeness, playing with differences.


This lost life, totally mine, totally theirs: I give thanks to God who seems to have wanted it entirely for that joy, despite everything and against everything.


In these thanks in which everything is said, by now, about my life, including also you, friends of yesterday and today, and you, friends of this earth, beside my mother and my father, my sisters and my brothers, a centuple given according to the promise! And you too, friend of the last moment, who did not know what you were doing.


Yes, for you as well, I want to foresee these thanks and this adieu. And that it may be given to us, blessed thieves, to meet again in Heaven, if God, our shared Father, so wishes, Amen! Insciallah.


*Prior of Notre-Dame de l’Atlas


 [From L’OSSERVATORE ROMANO, June 1st 1996]

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