I criticize quite a bit of what I consider fake faith, fake suffering, and even fake martyrdom when it comes to Christianity. Here’s a film called Of Gods and Men, based on a true story, that seems sincere. Faith is not truth, but at the very least it is faith that is real in the face of fear and death. It is not the faith of America suburbia with its Christian Rock, Veggie Tales and new “cool” youth translations of the Bible.
Of Gods and Men tells the story of Father Christian and six of his fellow monks of the Cistercian order (Catholic religious order that emphasizes “manual labor and self-sufficiency”) living in primarily Sunni Islam territory in Algeria. In 1995 they were kidnapped by the GIA or Armed Islamic Group who demanded France release Islamicists from their custody. Two months after they were kidnapped they were found dead–or rather their heads were found, they were decapitated.
Per WorldNetDaily, the film was the top grossing feature in France for 2010 and garnered several awards.
There are reports that the local Muslim population in Tibhirine still cares for the cememetary where the monks’ heads were laid to rest. It seems their needless deaths resulted in some respect for the order, though the Catholic church has no plans to send more monks to minister there.
It’s hard to say exactly what the monks actually died for. According to Wiki, they were caught up in the Algerian civil war and while the GIA claims responsibility, the French military says they were accidentally killed (but then why were they beheaded?). So were they martyred for their Catholic faith or were they killed as pawns of war? And why doesn’t the Catholic church have the faith to replace the order in Tibhirine? After all, it was God’s plan that they be martyred?
The movie is a tribute to the monks solidarity to be brothers despite persecution based on an Islamist ideology even as they were serving the Muslim community around them. From what I’ve read, I would prefer to remember these monks as martyrs for religious freedom. It may have been partly political due to the civil war, but they were targeted because of their particular religion. We need religious freedom for Christians in Muslim dominated territories.
Of Gods and Men opened in New York and Los Angeles in February for American audiences. See what France movie-goers thought was better than the usual fare.