John W. Kiser: Christian-Muslim Love
The recent opening across the United States of the much praised French film “Of Gods and Men” is an important event. As a fraternal love story wrapped in a horror story, it offers much reason for hope, as well as room for despair, depending on the lens of the viewer.
My lens is one of hope, based on six years of research and writing “The Monks of Tibhirine,” the book French director Xavier Beauvois called his “bible” for making his movie about Christian-Muslim friendship. My hope is also based on knowing the back story that goes untold in an otherwise excellent film focusing on the monks’ struggle to be true to their Trappist vows of poverty, charity, and stability when faced with their fear of a brutal death.
Some people today might say that Christian-Muslim love is an oxymoron. Yes, there are Muslims who preach hatred of the Christian West, even though fewer and fewer in the West (outside the US) are practicing or even professing Christians. There are no Muslims I have heard of who preach hatred or even disrespect for Jesus Christ, who is a much revered and sinless prophet in Islam.
There is, however, an active Christian minority that preaches hatred of Islam and regularly insults the Prophet Muhammad. Elements with political agendas on both sides benefit from blackening the other, and the media have been willing accomplices to this downward phobic spiral. “Of Gods and Men” is film that could help right perceptions.