Movie about murdered monks in Algeria covers up who killed them
Few foreign cinematic productions have premiered amidst more raving reviews than the French film, Of God and Men, when it opened in this country late last year. Winner of many movie nominations and prizes for best film, both foreign and domestic, the movie, based on a story by John Kiser, and directed by Xavier Beauvoir, tells the story of a group of monks of the Catholic Trappist Order of Cistercians of the Order of Strict Observation in the village of Tibhirine, Algeria, who although they never proselytized, and thereby thought they were in no danger, decided collectively to remain in their monastery during the civil war, despite threats made against their lives, threats that would be brutally carried out.
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The film, shot in Morocco, with the Atlas Mountains, which span much of northern Algeria and Morocco as a backdrop, is exceedingly well acted, with men whose appearance is far removed from Central Casting representing these doomed clerics. Still there is something that does not fit into the narrative of the film.
Two weeks ago, while attending a conference on Church matters in Italy, I had occasion to speak to Bernard Dumont, editor of the French magazine, Catholique. When I asked him about the movie, Dumont said that he had would not see it. He maintained that Beauvoir’s primary purpose was to show the goodness and piety of the monks, and that he intentionally left out that at least some of the villagers, many of whom had been helped by one of the monks, a physician, were partially responsible for the deaths of the monks in betraying them to the terrorists. Further, Dumont claimed that the bishop of the area had warned the monks to leave the area for their own safety. None of that appears in the movie, despite the usual, “Based on true events” notice at the beginning.
Finally, I was astounded by Beauvoir’s conclusion at the end of the movie. After seven monks were murdered and their severed heads left on the road as a warning, the movie tells us, “No one knows who the culprits are.” Really? Two months after the kidnapping murders, a group calling itself the Groupe Islamique Arme took total responsibility for this heinous crime. Beauvoir surely knew this, but what this demonstrates beyond cavil is that those who direct and produce movies, even marvelous ones telling tales of inspiration, will go to great lengths to avoid telling the politically incorrect truth.
James P. writes:
Vincent Chiarello writes:
After seven monks were murdered and their severed heads left on the road as a warning, the movie tells us, “No one knows who the culprits are.”
It was obviously a purely random act. The monks were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Ken Hechtman writes:
The GIA is clearly morally responsible for the murders. Let me say that first. But the director of the movie isn’t blowing smoke for the sake of blowing smoke. There really were some questions raised about how exactly the monks died.
Disputes over killers’ identity
In 2008, La Stampa reported that an anonymous high-ranking Western government official, then based in Algeria and in Finland at the time of writing, had told them that the kidnapping had been orchestrated by a DRS-infiltrated GIA group, and that the monks had then been killed accidentally by an Algerian military helicopter attacking the camp where they were being held captive.
There are so many events in the Algerian civil war that are like this. There were false flag operations on both sides. There were infiltrators in both the FIS/GIA and the government forces who had to prove their bone fides. Towards the end, the GIA tried to purge the FIS which just made things more complicated.
In 2009, the retired French general Francois Buchwalter, who was military attache in Algeria at the time, testified to a judge that the monks had accidentally been killed by a helicopter from the Algerian government during an attack on a guerrilla position, then beheaded after their death to make it appear as though the GIA had killed them. Ex-GIA leader Abdelhak Layada, who was in prison when the monks were killed but was later freed under a national amnesty, responded by claiming that the GIA had indeed beheaded them after the breakdown of negotiations with the French secret services.
Vincent Chiarello writes:
Before responding to Mr. Hechtman, allow me to include something that I omitted in my first post. The seven Cistercians who were murdered cannot be considered “martyrs for the Faith,” although they were killed because of it. There is, or at least was, in the Catholic Church, the binding definition of martyrdom that was first enunciated by St. Augustine: The cause—not the punishment—qualifies a true martyr.
These holy men were fervent in their desire to serve people the people of Tibhirine, but their deaths were not, and this may bother some people, the direct result of their work as missionaries. In fact, out of fear of offending their Muslim neighbors, they did little, if any, direct proselytizing, unlike the earlier Jesuits in North America, who in their missionary work were often killed for attempting to convert Indian tribes.
I was aware of the “smoke screens” that came about after the death of the Cistercians, and the multitude of “he said that they said” kind of reporting, including the article in La Stampa, a Turin based newspaper. Given that city’s noticeably increasing Muslim population (the main synagogue is given police protection around the clock), I cannot discount that the story may have had other implications, including a La Stampa editorial board decision to underplay the violence occurring amongst Moslem groups.
While it is unalterably true that civil wars often descend into aimless slaughter of innocents, the manner of death in which the heads of these clerics were left on the road as a warning strikes me as the modus operandi of Moslem terrorist groups. In matters such as these, we would be wise to follow what is referred to as lex parsimoniae, better known as Ockham’s Razor: when facing competing hypotheses, select the one that make the fewest assumptions.
Ockham’s Razor sounds like the rule of parsimony, which I reject. The test of the better hypothesis should not be some mechanical rule such as whether a hypothesis makes fewer assumptions than other hypotheses. The test of the better hypothesis should be whether a hypothesis better explains the evidence than other hypotheses.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at August 04, 2011 01:48 PM | Send