On Sunday, November 21st, Jean Pierre Schumacher passed away at the age of 97 in the Monastery of Notre Dame de l’Atlas in Morocco, to which he had retired after the kidnapping and massacre of his fellow monks from the Algerian monastery of Tibhirine.
On the night of March 26th/27th 1996, seven Trappist monks were kidnapped from their monastery. Their decapitated heads were found two months later near Medea. Even today, despite much investigation and rivers of inks written, this tragic event remains partly shrouded in mystery. Father Jean Pierre was the only remaining survivor after the death in 2008 of Amedée, who had also survived.
When we met him in Notre Dame de l’Atlas just a few years ago, Father Jean Pierre gave us a vibrant account of the night the terrorists kidnapped the other monks as he slept unaware. He told us that he was to still somewhat tormented by the question of what he would have done had he woken and realised what was happening. “Would I have stayed in my room or followed my brothers into the hands of the terrorists? It is a question I still don’t have the answer to’.
What is certain, however, is that after the massacre, Father Jean Pierrre continued – with great humility and simplicity – the work of communion and fellowship with the Muslim population always pursued by the Tibhirine monks. A sign of faith and also the providing of an opportunity for meeting and dialogue with the Muslim world through the simple, day-to-day mechanisms of work and prayer.
( 2010-2011 )