Monks in Algeria: loving thy neighbor at gunpoint

JENNIFER S. BRYSON

A review of the film “Of Gods and Men.”

What does it mean to love your neighbor? What does it mean to love your neighbor when a neighbor is pointing a gun at you and your other neighbors? The film “Of Gods and Men,” which won “best film” at France’s equivalent of the Oscars on February 25th, is based on a true story. It follows the lives of French Catholic monks in Algeria in the 1990s as the country descends into violent conflict between a secularist state and radical Islamists.

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Let fundamental reforms bring a new, peaceful Egypt

SHAYKH ALI GOMAA

It is with a heavy heart that I have watched the events of the past few days unfold. Violence is always regrettable, but to watch my own country deteriorate into virtual chaos is a cause of unimaginable grief and sadness, and the recent attacks against demonstrators are worthy of the strongest condemnation. To see Egypt in such a state of chaos is truly heart-wrenching. There is, however, reason for hope and optimism.

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The “Mormon Menace”

PATRICK Q. MASON

Nineteenth-century America saw a nationwide campaign to tame the “Mormon menace.” Promoted by an alliance of religious and secular individuals, institutions, and ideals, it even led President Rutherford B. Hayes to recommend stripping Mormons of their citizenship. Although Contending Modernities will focus primarily on Mormonism’s fellow subjects of modern opprobrium—Islam and Catholicism—it is important to consider such other “shadow cases” as we examine the complex dynamics of religion in modernity. The deep pluralism characteristic of the modern age has posed, and will continue to pose, a substantial challenge to the largely Euro-American-Protestant construct of secularism that dominated much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

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Egypt’s sad entrance into 2011

MARGOT BADRAN

I returned to Egypt for a visit, as I often do around this time. On New Year’s Eve my husband and I were wandering in the nearly empty streets of our Cairo neighborhood looking for a cyber café as our internet was down. When I saw two men pass by briskly carrying three huge boxes of pastries I thought of the merriment that was unfolding in houses, clubs, and restaurants and of the shouts of joy that would resound at the stroke of midnight. Within hours, though, all hell broke out at a large Coptic church in the heart of Alexandria—ending twenty-one innocent lives and shattering peace and hope throughout the country.

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On the New Year’s Day church bombing in Egypt

SHAYKH ALI GOMAA

Terrorism cannot be the outcome of any proper understanding of religion. It is rather a manifestation of the immorality of people with cruel hearts, arrogant souls, and warped logic. It is thus with great sadness and outrage that we witness the emergence of this disease in our nation with the recent bombing outside a church in Alexandria that killed tens of Egyptian citizens. There is no doubt that such barbarism needs to be denounced in the strongest of terms, and opposed at every turn. We demand that the perpetrators be brought to justice and stand trial.

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Orsi contra Ecclesiam

DANIEL PHILPOTT

In Citizens, Simon Schama’s narration of the French Revolution, he describes the revolutionary government’s suppression of the popular rebellion in the Vendée. Far more than a military maneuver, he recounts, the operation sought “the wholesale destruction of an entire region of France.” In a “sinister anticipation of the technological killings of the twentieth century,” the revolution’s armies exterminated women, children, entire villages, and ultimately some one third of the inhabitants of the region. Among the massacres’ chief targets was the Catholic Church….

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Modern conflict and Catholic peacebuilding

GERARD POWERS

I recently returned from an unprecedented gathering in Burundi of Catholic representatives from six countries in the Great Lakes region of Africa, a region that has become synonymous with genocide (Rwanda and Burundi), one of the world’s most ruthless rebel groups (the Lord’s Resistance Army), and perhaps the world’s deadliest conflict since World War II (the Congo). The church leaders met to formulate a strategic plan for regional peacebuilding.

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