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Monks of Tibhirine: Faith, Love, and Terror in Algeria Paperback – 28 Feb 2003

4.2 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 364 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; New edition edition (28 Feb. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312302940
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312302948
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.1 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 530,482 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Compelling . . . An exceptionally well-researched and deftly written account of the people and events involved in the tragedy.--Colman McCarthy "The Washington Post Book World "

Despite being a story of tragedy, "The Monks of Tibhirine" is ultimately an uplifting book and an educational one. Kiser offers lengthy carefully researched history of the political turmoil in Algeria and the on-going terrorist violence in the country.--Carmela Ciuraru "The San Francisco Chronicle "

Kiser argues that this murderous incident was a breaking point in the war of Islamic radicals against Algeria's military government--it turned the majority of Algerians against the radicals . . . Mr. Kiser tells the story well, at once sad and inspiring, of very good men who took their vocation seriously and died for it.--Roger Kaplan "The Wall Street Journal "

In the wake of the September terrorist attack on the United States, "The Monks of Tibhirine" gives us an essential lens through which to examine the violent forces rending the Muslim world. With deep compassion toward all parties to this tragic drama, John Kiser uses the story of these modern Christian monks to provide a microcosm of a struggle underway from Morocco to the Philippines. His book paints a surprising picture of the bonds of faith between Christians and Muslims, and provides a ray of hope for the future.--Dan Morgan, senior editor "The Washington Post "

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, "The Washington Post Book World"

I teach a course in the history of the relations between Muslims and Christians, usually called 'Christians and the Challenge of Islam.' Usually the students are upper level undergraduates, with an occasional graduate student. For this audience "The Monks of Tibhirine" is a good assignment because it interweaves religious and monastic history with modern social and political issues in a context that can almost serve as the icon for the difficulties of Christian/Muslim relations in the the Islamic milieu in the contemporary period. The book is excitingly written in a way that carries the reader along with a yen to know how it all turns out. That's an important feature for any book one hopes an undergraduate will read. These are the reasons why I recommend the book to my students. "Sidney H. Griffith, Professor of Syriac Patristics and Christian Arabic, Catholic University of America"

For those interested in Algeria, in Islamism and the disciplined spiritual life, this book is a must . . . Kiser makes the case that living together in community is possible for those religious peoples with an expansive inclusive understanding of their faiths; the Trappists had such a large attractive vision of Christianity . . . and large hearted Muslims met them half way. "Gary Hamburg, professor of history, Notre Dame University"

Kiser's book addresses Christian-Muslim relations in both a personal and balanced way . . . It provides an important discussion of issues Algerians (and other Muslim countries) will have to deal with for generations to come. I would recommend "The Monks of Tibhirine" for use in classes. "Sulayman Nyang, Howard University"

This book is not the first written about the monks of Tibhirine. It is the first written in English, but it might well be the best among all those books written in any language so far. I was struck by the accurate rendering of the portrait of each of the monks, by the description of both the local and national contexts of the events, by the depth of his comprehension of the Cistercian calling, and the vocation of our Algerian Church . . . Thank you to the author for the conscientiousness of his work and to have written about this drama in a way that it deserves. "Father Gilles Nicolas, diocesan priest in Algiers"

Despite being a story of tragedy, "The Monks of Tibhirine" is ultimately an uplifting book and an educational one. Kiser offers lengthy carefully researched history of the political turmoil in Algeria and the on-going terrorist violence in the country. Carmela Ciuraru, "The San Francisco Chronicle"

The riches contained in this book are many and varied . . . Chief among them may be the heightened appreciation that it offers for the rigors and allure of monasticism. Committed to lives of prayer and contemplation they became men of action summoned to achieve greatness and bravery under conditions of enormous duress. Life in what most of us call the 'real world, ' appears pale by comparison. "Andrew Bacevitch, Director, Center for International Relations, Boston University, author of First Things"

Kiser argues that this murderous incident was a breaking point in the war of Islamic radicals against Algeria's military government--it turned the majority of Algerians against the radicals . . . Mr. Kiser tells the story well, at once sad and inspiring, of very good men who took their vocation seriously and died for it. Roger Kaplan, "The Wall Street Journal"

In the wake of the September terrorist attack on the United States, "The Monks of Tibhirine" gives us an essential lens through which to examine the violent forces rending the Muslim world. With deep compassion toward all parties to this tragic drama, John Kiser uses the story of these modern Christian monks to provide a microcosm of a struggle underway from Morocco to the Philippines. His book paints a surprising picture of the bonds of faith between Christians and Muslims, and provides a ray of hope for the future. Dan Morgan, senior editor, "The Washington Post"

A must read shocker for those unaware of recent Algerian history. Beautifully written. "William W. Warner, Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Beautiful Swimmers"

I could not put this excellent book down. I took it everywhere I went and read it when I was stuck in traffic, waiting for an appointment, before going to bed. The book works on so many levels. The prior, Christian de Cherge articulated what I have been trying to convey--that Muslims intuitively view themselves as keepers of Christian and Jewish 'orthodoxy, ' not in the contemporary, but in the historical sense. The Trappist superior was a mystical adventurer who was convinced that Muslims were saved by their Islam and that Islam had something to tell Christians. The book touched me deeply. "Imam Feisal Abdul-Rauf, American Sufi Muslim Association"

I felt bereft when I finished . . . "The Monks of Tibhirine" is a well- researched, thoroughly engaging story of the Christian presence in Algeria today. This is an important book for the informed reader and for specialists interested in Islam, its relation to Christianity, and in the delicate dance of politics and religion in Muslim societies. "Dawn Chatty, Dulverton Senior Research Fellow, International Development Center, Oxford University"

"The Monks of Tibhirine "is a work of great sensitivity . . . his insightful prose weaves complex themes from Algeria's history into a single life-affirming whole. It transforms tragedy into hope for the future of Christian-Muslim relations . . . Most inspiring! "Abdul Aziz Said, Director, Center for Global Peace, American University"

An intellectual and emotional journey through the transcendent themes of faith, hate, war and reconciliation. "The Monks of Tibhirine" is not only a penetrating account of recent historical events, but of ideas and ideologies driving them. "Susan Eisenhower, Director, Eisenhower Institute, editor Islam in Central Asia"

John Kiser's fascinating account of the 1996 brutal massacre of the seven trappist monks in Algeria is situated well in its historical context. The complexities of the relationship between the various factions of the Muslims and the Christian monks of French origin is presented here in a lucid and engaging way. Now at last we have complete understanding of this heart-rending tragedy of our times. Highly recommended. "Brother Patrick Hart, O.C.S.O., Monk of Gethsemani and General Editor of the Thomas Merton Journals"

Can Christians and Muslims live together in peace and spiritual solidarity? Do these two spiritual traditions have anything to teach each other? The small Catholic monastery of Notre Dame de l'Atlas in Islamic Algeria stood as a witness proclaiming a bold yes to each of these questions . . . The French Trappists always stressed the 'notes that are in harmony' . . . Recommended for larger public libraries and academic libraries as well as special collections on Islam, monastic studies, and North Africa. "Steve Young, McHenry City College, Crystal Lake Illinois, Library Journal""

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.


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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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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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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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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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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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