Last survivor of the monks of Tibhirine passed away
Twenty-five years ago, Islamic terrorists abducted seven monks from Tibhirine in Algeria. Later, all of them were executed. Two of the monks living in the monastery escaped from the terrorists as they were sleeping in another wing of the building on the night of the terror attack. Jean-Pierre Schumacher, the younger of the two, died on Sunday.
In the 1990s, there was a civil war in Algeria. During this time, the monks living in the monastery of Notre Dame de l’Atlas in Tibhirine had often been attacked by Islamist extremists, who asked them to leave the country. The monks refused to leave the monastery and the local people whom they helped.
One of the monks, Luc Dochier was a doctor who served during the second world war. On the 24th of December 1993, the soldiers of an Islamist army called AIS asked the monks to allow Fr. Luc to work for them. Christian de Chergé, the Superior General, refused their demand. Fortunately, they left the monastery in peace, without hurting anyone.
The martyrdom of seven Cistercian monks
Two and a half years later, the soldiers returned on the night of the 26th of March 1996. The monks living in the monastery would have elected their new Superior General on the 31st of March. For this reason, two guests were also in the monastery at the time of the attack. To provide the guests with comfortable accommodation, two of the monks, Jean-Pierre and Amédée offered them their cells and slept in another wing of the building. Thus, the terrorists, arriving in the middle of the night, could not find the two of them. Later, Schumacher said that he and Amédée did not even wake up when the terrorists arrived.
After the monks had been kidnapped, there was no information about them. Finally, after a month, on the 30th of April, a man called Abdullah appeared at the French Consulate in Algeria and presented a voicemail with the voice of the seven kidnapped monks. One of them, Christian de Chergé says on the recording:
“On Thursday night, the Mujahid read the communiqé of GIA (Armed Islamic Group of Algeria) to us. They asked the French government to release several hostages belonging to their group. It is the condition for our release”.
Later there was again no information forthcoming about the whereabouts of the kidnapped. Finally, on the 21st of May, GIA announced:
“We cut the throat of the monks, as we had promised”.
Some days later, the Algerian authorities found the heads of the monks; their bodies were never discovered. Pope Francis beatified the seven martyrs in 2018.
Tho cross of survivors
The day after the abduction, Jean-Pierre Schumacher and Amédée Noto were brought to a safe place. They were prohibited from returning to the monastery. Jean-Pierre has been talking a lot about the martyrdom of his brothers in Christ. For a long time, he could not rest from the question: why did God deliver him from the attack?
Some months after the tragedy, he got a letter from the Superior General of the God’s Daughters monastery in Switzerland. She wrote:
“There are people invited to testify to God through their lives, others to testify with their lives”.
“These words comforted and liberated me from my doubts,” said Fr. Jean-Pierre.
The tragic events are presented in a French movie entitled Of Gods and Men.
Photo source: MTI/EPA/ANSA/Ciro Fusco