May 23 A Day to Commemorate Interreligious Harmony

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The world today is at a crisis of religious fanaticism. Human life is strangled everyday with threats of religious fanaticism. No religion suggests any kind of violence to promote its faith. It is some crooked fanatics that brainwash innocent minds and promote terrorism in the world. Taking sword against sword can never be a solution to suppress terrorism. People of the whole world, irrespective of their disparities should realize this. The leaders who lead nations should come forward to execute this.

Here is a Trappist monk who loved Islam and was cruelly murdered along with other monks by the Muslim fundamentalist terrorists, belonging to the Armed Islamic Group of Algeria (GIA).

Though he was a French Catholic, Christian de Cherge loved Islam and Quran very much. He loved the Muslims friends of Algeria and fought for their rights even when he was a lad of 21. Till the end of his life he loved and appreciated them. Even days before his murder, as he was aware that being a Christian he will have to shed his blood, he prayed for them and to forgive their fanatic violence.

Change of life at the sacrifice of a Muslim friend

Until he met with a turning point in life, Christian de Cherge had been a carefree French soldier, not much involved in religious activities. It was in the1950’s, while Christian de Cherge was fighting in the brutal war of independence in Algeria, that a Muslim friend sacrificed his own life to save the life of De Cherge. It marked the change in his life. He resolved to lead a religious life and join some confined congregation. He studied in Rome and became a Trappist monk, requesting the superiors to be stationed at a monastery in the Algerian mountains. It was a period when French Christians were not particularly welcome in Algeria. But his love towards Islam and Muslim friends was greater. The local people also respected the monks in the monastery. Even when Algeria was on the verge of civil war between the government and fundamentalist rebels, the monks remained in the country in spite of increasing violence against them by the rebels.

Christian monks who promoted love of Muslims

The Trappist monastery at Atlas, in Algeria, became the contemplative and prayer-filled center of Christian life in Muslim dominated Algeria. Their lives were disciplined lives of prayer, contemplation, and service in love. They taught agricultural techniques to the local farmers who were benefitted very much in life. The doors of the monastery were open to those seeking refuge or medical care.

A friend of Islam

As a Trappist monk, De Cherge involved more in studying the Quran. His farewell testament, one of his final contemplations, reveals his love and respect towards Islam. He wrote Islam was his soul and Algeria was his body.   It is an ultimate answer to all those who try to paint every Muslim as a terrorist, and the whole of Islam as some sort of satanic anti-Christian cult. He was ready to prove both of these fanatic ideas were false.

A sacrifice to annihilate terrorism and religious fanaticism

In 1996, De Cherge and six other monks were kidnapped from Our Lady of the Atlas monastery, marched into the mountains, and were kept as hostages for some time. But when the terrorists found that their demands could not be met with, they beheaded Christian de Cherge and others mercilessly and threw away their bodies in some unknown place. Only their heads, crushed by inhuman atrocity, could be recovered on May 23, 1996.  .

His heart-rending adieu letter

Days back, Christian foresaw his victimization by the terrorists and wrote a touching “Adieu letter” seeing death face to face. He expected that it should happen one day at the cost of his life. He was sure that he would become a victim of terrorism which was engulfing Algeria and other places of the world. He was happy to lay down his life to God and to this country. He already begged forgiveness from God for his persecutors. In his adieu-letter he declared, “For me, Algeria and Islam are something different: they are a body and a soul.”

Let the world open its eyes. Let harmony be promoted. It is always better to light a candle than cursing darkness.

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