Today in Catholic History – The Martyrs of Atlas

On 21 May 1996, the bodies of seven monks of the Cistercian Monastery of Our Lady of Atlas were found. These monks had been kidnapped on the night of 27-28 March from their monastery near the village of Tibhirine in Algeria by the Islamic GIA (Groupe Islamique Armé).

The Trappist monks of Atlas wanted to be a small Christian community to witness for Christ in Algeria. They remained despite the danger to their lives because they wished to be signs of peace.

There remains some controversy over the facts of the death of the monks, while the GIA claims responsibility for executing the Trappists, French General Francois Buchwalter has claimed that the monks were accidentally killed during a rescue attempt and then made to look like the GIA had killed them.

After their deaths, Rabah Kebir, the leader of the Islamic Salvation Front, who had earlier demanded of the GIA the release of the monks, condemned what he called “this criminal act, which runs absolutely contrary to the principles of Islam.” Kahdidja Khalil of the High Council of French Muslims went further: “We strongly condemn this savage and barbaric act. It is forbidden in the holy Koran to touch ‘all servants of God,’ and that means priests and rabbis as well.”

The Martyrs of Atlas

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