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The Monks of Tibhirine: Faith, Love, and Terror in Algeria [Kindle Edition]

John Kiser
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

"The inspiration for the major motion picture "Of Gods and Men"

A true story of Christian love set against political terrorism in contemporary Algeria.

In the spring of 1996, militants of the Armed Islamic Group, today affiliated with Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network, broke into a Trappist monastery in war-torn Algeria. Seven monks were taken hostage, pawns in a murky negotiation to free imprisoned terrorists. Two months later, the severed heads of the monks were found in a tree not far from Tibhirine; their bodies were never recovered.

The village of Tibhirine had sprung up around the monastery because it was a holy place, protected by the Virgin Mary, who is revered by Christians and Muslims alike. But after 1993, as the Algerian military government's war against Islamic terrorism widened, napalm, helicopters, and gunfire became regular accompaniments to their monastic routine.

The harmony between these Christian monks and the Muslim neighbors of Tibhirine contrasts with the fear and distrust among Algerians fighting over power and what it means to be a Muslim. Woven into the story of the kidnapping and the political disintegration of Algeria is a classic account of Christian martyrdom. But these monks were not martyrs to their faith, as preaching Christianity to Muslims is forbidden in Algeria, but rather martyrs to their love of their Muslim neighbors, whom they refuse to desert in their hour of need.

Product Description


"Kiser is the first American to have told the full story . . . What makes this book so unusual and yet useful for students is the way the author has combined solid research and profound analysis with compelling writing and personal engagement in the story. It is part mystery, part love story and part historical journalism of a very high order. There are precious few such books on the market. "The Monks of Tibhirine "brings together history, politics and stories of faith that is lived amid fear and violence in a style that is dramatic, inspiring and extremely educational. In this sense it is an excellent tool for teaching students about the Muslim world in which religion infuses life . . . This is an extraordinary story of the meeting of two peoples within the Abrahamic tradition who believed that, the violence notwithstanding, the destiny of all of them was to live together joined in charity and friendship. Kiser's book, as history and witness to faith, would be a valuable companion for many courses on religious studies, history and cultural studies of the Arab and Muslim worlds, but most of all for courses that seek to advance Christian Muslim understanding. I am going to be using it for my religion and conflict resolution course and am also recommending it as well to the Middle Eastern studies department."--Andrea Bartoli, Director, Center for International Conflict Resolution, Columbia University "Well-written and extremely thoroughly researched . . . A valuable addition to the literature about modern Algeria, and I plan to recommend it to all officers going there on assignment . . . Its story is couched within the larger--and tragic--setting of the country, and one can learn a lot about the latter by studying this case study."--Peter Bechtold, Chair, Near East and North Africa, Foreign Service Institute "Compelling . . . An exceptionally well-researched and deftly written account of the people and events involved in the tragedy."--Colman McCarthy, g

About the Author

John Kiser is the author of "Communist Entrepreneurs: Unknown Innovators in the Global Economy "and "Stefan Zweig: Death of a Modern Man. "A former international technology broker, he has an M.A. from Columbia University in European History and an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago. His articles have been published in "Foreign Policy" magazine, the "Harvard Business Review," the "Washington Post," and the "Wall Street Journal." He lives with his family in Sperryville, Virginia.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1324 KB
  • Print Length: 366 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Edition edition (28 Feb. 2003)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004R1QG4M
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #529,205 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A remarkable story brought into focus 29 Oct. 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Recently I saw the award winning film 'Of Gods and Men', the very moving story of the ministry and subsequent martyrdom of a group of Trappist monks from their monastery in Tibhirine, Algeria. Whilst the film stands as a wonderful testament to their devout calling the men had to reconcile their Christian faith amongst the largely Muslim community through their regime of prayer and pastoral care, I wanted to know about the background to the monastic establishment and religious history of that region of Algeria. The film conveys in a beautifully understated way the relations between the monks, their individual characteristics and eventually their total abandonment to the Will of God by accepting their sacrifice.

The book by John W Kiser, is a very helpful presentation of both the reason for such a monastic establishment in Algeria, following in the footsteps of religious pioneers such as Charles de Foucauld and Carlo Carretto; the politics of Algeria and its terrible betrayal by the French occupation and finally, within the books' timescape the struggle between Islamic fundamentalists/terrorists and Christianity.

The story of the Cistercian/Trappist movement seeing North Africa as a field of mission is as medieval in concept as any religious enterprise and the brave audacity in establishing the monastery at Tibhirine was a success in part. Under the leadership of Fr Christian, who perhaps selfishly, was creating a very personal ministry to reconcile Christianity with Islam and very much against the odds; that he and the community achieved such a credible role with the villages must be seen as a great act of faith.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
My interest in the monks of Tibhirine was triggered on seeing the film "Of Gods and of men". I wanted to gain a wider understanding of these men, of their mission as they perceived it, and indeed as it was perceived by those living around them. This book sets out the historical context of the arrival of the monks in Algeria in the mid 19th century and the co-existence of these Christian communities in the Muslim world. It is spiritually inspirational in drawing together the common aspects of Islam and Christianity and sets a challenge to Christians and Muslims alike, that in truly embracing our core beliefs, neither can justify hostility to the other. It sets us all a challenge to move closer to each other lead by the example of Christian de Chergé and his brothers.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring lives of humility and simple love 19 Sept. 2012
I loved this book. I learnt quite a bit about Algeria, but more importantly, I learnt a lot about the life of a monk and the beauty and the good of such a life. Completely inspired by their solidarity with the local people and their simple lives of love and faith and service. Highly recommended if you want to re-focus on what's important or just hear about ordinary people choosing extraordinary love. If only more of us responded to the challenges of our current times in this way.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is remarkably well researched. I bought it as part of the research for an essay on Algeria, and it was of limited use to that essay, but it was still very interesting and is well worth reading.

The story is about a groups of monks (I think 7 people in all) - it talks about their personal history, their decisions to join the brotherhood, the conflict in Algeria and the murder of the monks.

Excuse such a limited review, it's been a while now sinse I read the book.
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9 of 21 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars DOESN'T DO THEM JUSTICE 10 Dec. 2010
The author writes: "The monks were not martyrs to their faith. They did not die because they wre Christians. The died because they wouldn't leave their Muslim friends." Uh? If they had been Muslims would they have died? They lived a Christian ideal, which is why they stayed. They died for it.
He admits to be contrarian. He'd do better to be fair.
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