A Christian Response to Islamic Hatred

icon_Father, Forgive Them
by Stanley Hauerwas

“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” With these words the world is offered an alternative unimaginable by our sin-determined fantasies. Such a politics is not constituted by vague longings for distant ideals but rather by flesh and blood. Flesh and blood as real as Christian de Cherge, the Trappist prior of the Tibhirine monastery in Algeria. Christian and his fellow monks knew their refusal to leave Algeria after the rise of Islamic radicals in 1993 might result in their deaths. Anticipating his death—he was beheaded in 1996 by Muslim radicals—Christian left a testament with his family to be opened on his death. In that testament he asks that those who love him pray that he was worthy of such a sacrifice. He expresses the fear that his death will be used to accuse in general these people, these Islamic people, who he has come to love. He ends his testament observing:

“Obviously, my death will justify the opinion of all those who dismissed me as naïve or idealistic: “Let him tell us what he thinks now.” But such people should know that my death will satisfy my most burning curiosity. At last, I will be able—if God pleases—to see the children of Islam as He sees them, illuminated in the glory of Christ, sharing in the gift of God’s Passion and of the Spirit, whose secret joy will always be to bring forth our common humanity amidst our differences.

“I give thanks to God for this life, completely mine yet completely theirs, too, to God, who wanted it for joy against, and in spite of, all odds. In this Thank You – which says everything about my life—I include you, my friends past and present, and those friends who will be here at the side of my mother and father, of my sisters and brothers—thank you a thousandfold.

“And to you, too, my friend of the last moment, who will not know what you are doing. Yes, for you, too I wish this thank-you, this “A-Dieu,” whose image is in you also, that we may meet in heaven, like happy thieves, if it pleases God, our common Father. Amen!”

ChristiandeChergeChristian de Cherge is a martyr made possible by Christ’s death. His life is a witness that allows us to glimpse what it means to be drawn into the life of God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the life nailed to the cross. To so be made part of God’s love strips us of all our presumed certainties, making possible lives like that of Christian de Cherge, that is, lives lived in the confidence that Jesus, the only Son of God, alone has the right to ask the Father to forgive people like us who would kill rather than face death. That is why we are rightly drawn to the cross, why we rightly remember Jesus’ words, in the hope that we might be for the world the forgiveness made ours through the cross of Christ.