Few Americans heard about it, but the story gripped Europe (and especially France) during the summer of 1996: The mysterious kidnapping and murder of seven Trappist monks living in the Algerian village of Tibhirine at their monastery of Notre-Dame de l'Atlas. John W. Kiser III tells their story, or at least what parts of it can be known; much of what happened to them remains unclear, including the motives of their captors. Parts of The Monks of Tibhirine
are grim, but this is an unavoidable fact of the case. The monks' bodies, for instance, never have been found--except for their heads. Kiser describes the scene: "The monks' desiccated faces, hollow eye sockets, and exposed teeth made them look like mummies." (Apparently they had been buried, then disinterred.) Readers looking for a nonfiction thriller won't find it on these pages, however. Much of the book is a history of monks living in Algeria, and much of the rest chronicles the good relationships the seven doomed monks shared with their Muslim neighbors. Their devotion to both their faith and their neighbors is inspiring; the way they died is abhorrent. --John Miller
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From Publishers Weekly
During the carnage that followed the 1992 cancellation of elections in Algeria, seven Trappist monks were kidnapped and murdered in 1996 by a group of Islamic extremists, one of many armed elements whose clash exacted a toll of at least 100,000 lives in the former French colony in North Africa. Kiser, whose only previous English-language book dealt with technology and the Soviet Union, focuses on the peaceful and fraternal coexistence of Christians and Muslims in and around a Trappist monastery in the Algerian countryside. Despite warnings for foreigners to leave, the monks maintained their daily witness to peace, offering employment in the monastery gardens and medical care to any Muslims who sought such assistance. The villagers in turn honored the monks' piety and simplicity, and regularly invited their Christian neighbors to weddings and other festivities. Given the complexity of the horrific subsequent events, the thoroughly French and Algerian frame of reference (the story is well known in France) and the importance of a clear chronology in the story, this text cries out for an editor's guidance in reorganizing the narrative and clarifying it for an American audience. Yet the book is still a must for patient American readers interested in the evolution of independent Islamic politics out of a history of European imperialism. Inside a hard shell of confusing politics rests an engrossing and simple tale of love for one's neighbors and a God who does not prefer one faith over another.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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