The Cistercian monks of Tibehirine in Algeria live a simple life. They worship God in their modest chapel with singing and silent meditation, hold services for the town's few Christians, listen to the problems of their Muslim neighbours, offer them medical aid and listen to their problems. They live in harmony with their Muslim neighbours, showing them love instead of judgement. They don't sell Christianity with cheap slogans or threats like some brassy American preachers. Here, the monks evangelise with love.
When an Islamic fundamentalist group massacres a group of foreign aid workers, their Muslim friends beg them to leave but they refuse, believing that they need to make a stand.
Sigh, this French movie really makes me think about Malaysia. How fundamentalism threatens to ruin what little harmony we have. The scene in the movie that stood out for me is when a couple of Muslims were talking to Christian, one of the monks, about a Muslim girl being killed for not wearing the hijab.
"God says in the Quran you kill your brother you got to hell. They say they're religious, they have not read the quran!" said one man.
"The world's gone mad, Christian." said an elderly Muslim. "Where are we going? I don't know who these people are. Only god knows," he lamented.
Seriously, he's echoing our thoughts.
Ultimately, we are all brothers and sisters. So, why the hell are we fighting so hard to make people believe what we believe, live the way we live?
Of God's and Men is a slow-moving movie; it's not filled with gun battles or vampy women. Which is why it's so jarring when the quiet and serene lives of the monks and their Muslim neighbours are brutally interrupted by senseless violence. In this way the director demonstrates what a sharp contrast there is between true spirituality and religious fanatism.
But lest you think the monks are superhuman, they are fearful and doubt too. As one monk says, "Dying for my faith shouldn't keep me up nights. Dying here and now does it serve a purpose? .. I don't get it. Why be martyrs? For God? To be heroes?"
And Christian answers. "We're martyrs out of love; out of fidelity."
This movie is based on a true story, by the way. And that makes it all the more sadder - that it really happened.
A touching and moving movie. If we can all live like the monks of Tibehirine, the world would be a much better place.