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Sunday, 03 April 2011 22:00

"Of Gods and Men": A Modern Story of Faith

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Of Gods and Men posterMatthew 10:34-39 — wherein Jesus says, "Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth," and promises that "he who loses his life for My sake will find it" — seems an appropriate passage to describe the account of nine Trappist monks caught in an Algerian village in 1996. Of Gods and Men is a French film, directed by Xavier Beauvois, with English subtitles, and is being shown in select theaters.

Inspired by real-life events, it is simply a beautiful story of faith. The film opens silently, befitting the cloistered life of the small group of Christians, with only ambient sounds of shuffling feet and chirping birds to break the silence of monastic life. The monks live peacefully with the largely Muslim population of Algiers, and tend to the medical needs of a tiny village that grew up around the monastery, participating in the lives of the villagers, dispensing advice, keeping a garden, and producing honey from their hives.

The Benedictine community becomes troubled, though, as religious extremists begin to terrorize fellow Muslims. A late-night visit to the abbey by a few extremists ends safely enough, but is only the beginning of violent episodes that will plague the region. The religious brothers are caught between a corrupt military government and violent acts carried out by the extremists. The brothers are encouraged to leave the monastery, but the initial refusal of their leader causes dissension within the order, and brings to the surface the most basic questions of faith. Each monk struggles with self-doubt, deciding if staying would be, as one put it, an act of collective suicide, or if leaving would betray not only their obligations to the villagers but, ultimately, their vows to God.

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