“Of Gods and Men”
December 4, 2012
The French Dominican Fr. Jean-Paul Vesco, O.P., is now the Bishop of Oran, Algeria. Newly appointed by Pope Benedict XVI to this region of eight million, there are roughly 1,000 Christians of whom only a fraction is Roman Catholic. A light assignment, except for the reality that it is in a country trying to emerge from a full-blown civil war pitting government forces against an Al-Qaida aligned Islamist insurgency. The precarious and increasingly hostile existence faced by Christians in Algeria was brought to light last year with the release of a film that received phenomenal reviews in the New York Times and throughout the secular media. “Of Gods and Men” chronicled the final days of a community of French Trappist monks before their murder at the hands of Islamic fundamentalists in 1996. Soon after the monks were killed, a bomb claimed the life of the Dominican Pierre Claverie, O.P., who served as the Bishop of Oran from 1981 until his death. While Christians are a small minority throughout North Africa and the Middle East, Pope Benedict XVI has big plans for them. On his recent visit in September to Lebanon the Pope proclaimed, “In a world where violence constantly leaves behind its grim trail of death and destruction” it is urgently necessary “to serve justice and peace.” He added that the mission of peace and reconciliation “is an essential testimony which Christians must render here, in co-operation with all people of good will.” Please pray for Bishop Jean-Paul Vesco, O.P., and the Dominican mission in the Arab world. In addition to Algeria, there are eight Dominican brothers in Cairo, Egypt fostering dialogue between Islam and Christianity; as well as two convents in Iraq.