Democratization in the Land of Tibhirine

[This month’s post is being hosted by The Review of Faith and International Affairs]

Fifteen years ago, seven Trappist monks were kidnapped from their monastery of Notre Dame d’Atlas in Tibhirine, Algeria and assassinated in the mountains surrounding their home. In many ways, the story of these Catholic monks is an absurd entry point for a political reflection on contemporary Algeria. The Algerian Christian church is a tiny community in an overwhelmingly Muslim population, and the monks represent merely seven of the thousands of lives—perhaps as many as 200,000—that were extinguished during Algeria’s years of violence. Yet, with the recent release of Xavier Beauvois’ film, Of Gods and Men in the United States, millions of Americans are being introduced to the monks’ story for the first time and, through their story, to Algerian politics. Given the film’s coincidence with political developments in the rest of North Africa, I would like to situate the film in its larger Algerian political context and consider what insights the spirit of Tibhirine might offer toward creating sustainable democracy in Algeria today…. read the rest of the article here

Jasmine and North African Islamism

[This month’s post is being hosted by the Contending Modernities blog, a new project at the University of Notre Dame exploring modernity from Catholic, Muslim and Secular perspectives]

Although everyone by now has traced a narrative arc from Tunisia to the momentous events in Egypt, eyes darted first to Algeria. In the days surrounding the collapse of Tunisian President Ben Ali’s government, many wondered about the stability of the government in Algiers. After all, protests had proliferated throughout the last year as black market prices on basic goods inflated, and general apathy about Algerian President Bouteflika turned to anger. Algeria is next to Tunisia and, in fact, some Algerian political opposition forces are currently attempting to rally around the present moment of political openness—a moment fraught with all the more potential because of the unfolding situation in Egypt…read full entry here