In May 1996 the GIA, a radical Algerian Islamic group, kidnapped seven Trappist monks in the Atlas mountains and held them hostage, demanding the release of several of their companions from the French government.
When the French refused, the GIA killed the monks by slitting their throats. All of France was horrified. Catholic churches throughout France tolled their bells at the same time in honour of the monks’ death.
Two years before this atrocity happened the Prior of the monastery had a mysterious premonition that he would die at the hands of extremists.
He wrote a letter forgiving his future assassins, sealed it, and left it with his mother in France. It was only opened after his violent death. It read in part:
If it should happen one day – and it could be today – that I become a victim of the terrorism that now seems to encompass all the foreigners living in Algeria, I would like my community, my church, my family, to remember that my life was given to God and to Algeria; and that they accept that the sole Master of all life was not a stranger to this brutal departure.
I would like, when the time comes, to have a space of clearness that would allow me to beg forgiveness of God and my fellow human beings, and at the same time to forgive with all my heart the one who will strike me down … My death, obviously, will appear to confirm those who hastily judged me naïve or idealistic: “Let him tell us now what he thinks of it!”
But they should know that … for this life lost, I give thanks to God. In this “thank you”, which is said for everything in my life from now on, I certainly include you, my last-minute friend who will not have known what you are doing … I commend you to the God in whose face I see yours. And may we find each other, happy “good thieves” in
Paradise, if it please God, the Father of us both.