The 19 Chris­tian mar­tyrs of Al­ge­ria

Kuwait Times - - International -

AL­GIERS: The 19 Ro­man Catholic clergy to be be­at­i­fied as mar­tyrs in Al­ge­ria on Satur­day were as­sas­si­nated be­tween 1994 and 1996 amid a bru­tal war be­tween Is­lamic mil­i­tants and gov­ern­ment forces. Mostly French na­tion­als, the men and women were de­clared mar­tyrs by the Vatican in Jan­uary 2018, since they were mur­dered “in odium fidei”, or out of ha­tred for the faith. Here is a sum­mary of the killings.

Four White Fa­thers

On De­cem­ber 27, 1994 at­tack­ers armed with au­to­matic ri­fles gunned down four mis­sion­ar­ies at their rec­tory at Tizi Ou­zou, about 100 kilo­me­ters east of the cap­i­tal Al­giers. From the Mis­sion­ar­ies of Africa or­der-also known as the White Fa­thers-they were French na­tion­als Jean Chevil­lard, 69, Alain Dieu­lan­gard, 75, and Chris­tian Ches­sel, 36, and Bel­gian Charles Deck­ers, 70. Two days later, the rad­i­cal in­sur­gent Armed Is­lamic Group of Al­ge­ria (GIA) claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity, in rapid re­venge for the De­cem­ber 26 killing of four of its men who had hi­jacked an Air France plane and were shot dead by French forces.

The group, the most rad­i­cal of the in­sur­gent or­ga­ni­za­tions then at war with Al­ge­ria’s sec­u­lar gov­ern­ment, said at the

time its “forces will con­tinue the ex­ter­mi­na­tion of Chris­tian cru­saders.” The four GIA hi­jack­ers seized the plane on the tar­mac at Al­giers air­port on De­cem­ber 24, killing three of its more than 200 pas­sen­gers and crew. After the plane landed at Mar­seille air­port two days later, it was stormed by elite forces who killed the ab­duc­tors and freed the pas­sen­gers.

The monks of Tib­hirine

On the night of March 26 to 27, 1996, gun­men stormed the Notre Dame de l’At­las monastery in Tib­hirine, about 80 kilo­me­ters south­west of Al­giers, and kid­napped seven French Trap­pist monks. The GIA an­nounced on May 23 it had slit their throats, blam­ing the French gov­ern­ment’s re­fusal to ne­go­ti­ate with them. Al­ge­ria’s army said they found the heads of the vic­tims on May 30; the bod­ies were never seen again. The Al­ge­rian gov­ern­ment main­tained the mas­sacre was an­other crime by the Is­lamists. But this ver­sion came into doubt after al­le­ga­tions from var­i­ous wit­nesses that the army it­self may have been re­spon­si­ble, ei­ther through blun­der or to dis­credit the Is­lamists. The seven were: Chris­tian de Cherge, 59; Luc Dochier, 82; Paul Favre-Miville, 56; Christophe Lebre­ton, 45; Michel Fleury, 51; Ce­lestin Ringeard, 62; and Bruno Le­marc­hand, 66.

Bishop of Oran

Bishop Pierre Claverie, 58, was killed with his driver on Au­gust 1, 1996 when a re­mote-con­trolled bomb ex­ploded at his res­i­dence in Oran in western Al­ge­ria. Claverie, a dual French-Al­ge­rian na­tional, was at­tacked after re­turn­ing home from a meet­ing with the then French for­eign min­is­ter. He had pub­licly con­demned atroc­i­ties at­trib­uted to Is­lamic fun­da­men­tal­ists and his killing was blamed on the GIA. The mur­der was met with out­rage in Al­ge­ria and France, com­ing only weeks after the kid­nap­ping and mur­der of the monks of Tib­hirine.

Killed in Al­giers

Two French na­tion­als were gunned down in a li­brary in the Cas­bah sub­urb of Al­giers in May 1994. Of the 19 clergy to be be­at­i­fied on Satur­day, they were the first to lose their lives. Brother Henri Verges, 63, and Sis­ter Paul-He­lene Sain­tRay­mond, 67, were killed while they were help­ing young Al­ge­ri­ans to pre­pare for their ex­am­i­na­tions. The GIA claimed the killings. In Oc­to­ber 1994 two Span­ish Au­gus­tine nuns-Esther Pa­ni­agua Alonso, 45, and Cari­dad Al­varez Martin, 61 were shot dead en-route to prayers in the res­i­den­tial, work­ing class Bab ElOued area. In Septem­ber 1995 two more nuns-Jeanne Lit­tle­john, 61, of Mal­tese na­tion­al­ity and Denise Le­clerc, 65, from France-were shot dead re­turn­ing from prayers in the cap­i­tal’s poor Bel­court district. In Novem­ber the same year French nun Odette Prevost, 63, was killed in an at­tack in the Kouba district, a work­ing class area of cen­tral Al­giers.

— AFP

TIBEHIRINE, Al­ge­ria: Photo shows the graves of seven French Trap­pist monks at the Tib­hirine monastery.

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