The Last Testament of a Beheaded Christian Brian Zahnd
Christian de Chergé was a French Catholic monk and the Trappist prior of the Tibhirine monastery in Algeria. With the rise of radical Islam in 1993, Father Chergé knew that his life was in danger. But instead of leaving Algeria, Father Chergé chose to stay and continue his witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ. On May 24, 1996 Father Chergé was beheaded by Muslim radicals. Anticipating his death, Father Chergé had left a testament with his family to be read upon the event of his murder. The testament in part reads:
“If it should happen one day — and it could be today — that I become a victim of the terrorism which now seems ready 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 this country. I ask them to accept that the One Master of all life was not a stranger to this brutal departure. I ask them to pray for me: for how could I be found worthy of such an offering? I ask them to be able to associate such a death with the many other deaths that were just as violent, but forgotten through indifference and anonymity.
My life has no more value than any other. Nor any less value. In any case, it has not the innocence of childhood. I have lived long enough to know that I share in the evil which seems, alas, to prevail in the world, even in that which would strike me blindly. I should like, when the time comes, to have a clear space which would allow me to beg forgiveness of God and of all my fellow human beings, and at the same time to forgive with all my heart the one who would strike me down.
Obviously, my death will justify the opinion of all those who dismissed me as naïve or idealistic: ‘Let him tell us what he thinks now.’ But such people should know that my death will satisfy my most burning curiosity. At last, I will be able — if God pleases — to see the children of Islam as He sees them, illuminated in the glory of Christ, sharing in the gift of God’s Passion and of the Spirit, whose secret joy will always be to bring forth our common humanity amidst our differences.
I give thanks to God for this life, completely mine yet completely theirs, too, to God, who wanted it for joy against, and in spite of, all odds. In this Thank You — which says everything about my life — I include you, my friends past and present, and those friends who will be here at the side of my mother and father, of my sisters and brothers — thank you a thousandfold. And to you, too, my friend of the last moment, who will not know what you are doing. Yes, for you, too I wish this thank-you, this ‘Adieu,’ whose image is in you also, that we may meet in heaven, like happy thieves, if it pleases God, our common Father. Amen!”
–Father Christian de Chergé
Christian de Chergé lived as a citizen of the kingdom of God. The manner in which he died and the testament he left behind is the only Christian response to militant Islam I can think of which is faithful to Jesus Christ. Father de Chergé does not call for his blood to be avenged, but like his Savior, Father de Chergé prays for the forgiveness of his murderer and speaks of him as “my friend of the last moment, who will not know what you are doing.” In his martyr’s testament Father de Chergé bids his murder “Adieu” and hopes that they might meet in heaven “like happy thieves.” This is beautiful. The kind of beauty that can save the world. Father de Chergé lived a beautiful life and in his death overcame Satan by the blood of the Lamb and the word of his testimony. Christian Chergé would rather die following the way of the Lamb than follow the way of the Beast.