In Dialogue of the Heart, Fr Martin McGee presents a timely and heartfelt plea encouraging Christians everywhere to cultivate harmonious relationships with their Muslim neighbours. In penning a touching account of the story of the Trappist monks of Tibhirine, Fr Martin highlights the way in which this particular order has provided an inspiring example by reaching out to their Muslim fellow believers in modern-day North Africa.
The monks’ story – familiar to many thanks to the award-winning 2010 film Of Gods and Men – forms the backbone of this deeply affecting and thoughtful celebration of interreligious friendship.
By drawing on the inspiring witness of the Catholic Church in Algeria and Morocco, Fr Martin sensitively illuminates the way in which Christians can connect sincerely in everyday life with their Muslim neighbours.
This book is an important and refreshing angle on getting to know and love our Muslim neighbours. – Shaun Lambert, The Baptist Times
Few books could have a publication date that is more apt, for ours is a time when rational, open-minded effort is needed to confront mistrust. – Religious Life Review, September/October 2015
Believers of both religions are searching for God; and in sharing our spiritual experiences we can foster a sense of fellowship, and live in peace. Dialogue of the heart encounters with our new neighbours will help to dispel fear. Fr McGee's book Dialogue of the Heart comes as a timely reminder that we can collaborate simply as believers in one God. – Doctrine & Life, September 2015
Father Martin McGee is a Benedictine monk and a chaplain in Worth Abbey School, Sussex. Originally from County Mayo, he studied arts at University College, Galway, before teaching French for more than a decade in County Louth. Dialogue of the Heart is his second book, following Christian Martyrs for a Muslim People (Paulist Press, 2008), which tells the poignant story of the nineteen priests and sisters assassinated by Islamic fundamentalists in Algeria in the mid-1990s.
Hailing from County Mayo, McGee studied French and philosophy in Galway. Having spent some years teaching, he spent time in Algeria, the site of the 1996 assassination of the Tibhirine monks, and in Morocco (where he befriended two monks who survived the atrocity).
Few books could have a publication date that is more apt, for ours is a time when rational, open-minded effort is needed to confront mistrust, a time when fanatics continue to cause the death of many citizens of countries in Africa and Europe, as well as elsewhere. The pandemonium and sense of vulnerability/helplessness felt by the population in many lands is far too evidently part of the atmosphere in which this Benedictine, chaplain in Worth Abbey, offers hope. He shows from real-life examples how understanding can be gained and retained between Christian (and post-Christian) civilisations and the world of our Muslim neighbours. The experience of Muslim-Christian dialogue in Algeria over the last hundred years is dealt with in detail, after McGee examines the case of the Tibhirine monks: 'men of prayer alongside a people of prayer'.
A welcome feature of this study is the inclusion of the text of a doctrinal note (issued in 2008) from the French Bishops'Conference on how Christians and Muslims speak of God.
– Religious Life Review, September/October 2015
I met Father Martin McGee at Worth Abbey recently, a Benedictine monk and a chaplain in Worth Abbey School, Sussex, with an interest in inter-faith dialogue. His first book Christian Martyrs for a Muslim People (Paulist Press, 2008) tells the poignant story of the 19 priests and sisters assassinated by Islamic fundamentalists in Algeria in the mid-1990s.
His latest is the timely Dialogue of the Heart – Christian-Muslim Stories of Encounter, which summons us, compellingly, to base our inter-faith dialogue on love and not fear. The living water of this approach comes from the lives, witness, and martyrdom of the Trappist monks of Tibhirine, Algeria.
Inter-faith dialogue is an area I am exploring out of everyday necessity, living in Harrow the most religiously and ethnically diverse borough in Western Europe. At least 12 per cent of our neighbours are Muslim, and this is growing rapidly.
At a grassroots level here in Stanmore we have begun engaging in dialogue, and this book is written to encourage that approach. I like to look at a subject from more than one perspective, and this book is an important and refreshing angle on getting to know and love our Muslim neighbours.
The challenge of the story of Father Christian and the other monks who refused to leave their Muslim neighbours in Algeria, when their lives were threatened, is one of ordinary men trying to leave out the fullness of Jesus’ Gospel message to love our neighbour as our own self. I might not agree with all the theology but the spiritual mettle and Christlikeness of these witnesses to Jesus invites us to stop being spectators of dialogue and participate in it.
Father Martin makes a compelling case for the fact that dialogue is not just for specialists, but that through the ‘dialogue of life’ itself, through friendship and hospitality, we lay down the foundation for all other dialogues.
Father Martin, as a French speaker, has visited Algeria and met the two survivors of the Tibhirine massacre, where seven of the nine monks were kidnapped and beheaded by Muslim fundamentalists in 1996. The story can be followed in the award-winning 2010 film Of Gods and Men.
In part one of the book the author looks at the lives of four of the Tibhirine monks, distilling profound wisdom from their stories about how we might relate to our Muslim neighbours. In part two of the book he takes a wider look at how the Catholic Algerian Church relates to its Muslim neighbours. There have been Christian communities in North Africa since the second century, with the most famous Bishop being St Augustine of Hippo (modern-day Annaba in Algeria).
The book would make an excellent resource to use in small groups to help churches explore how their own local community might enter into dialogue. The presence and consecrated stability of the monks and small Catholic church can be contrasted with the more overt approach of Evangelicals in Algeria, and I’m sure lively debated.
The importance of visibly being people of prayer, and people who try to live holy lives is an important witness, for many Muslims ‘Those who pray are much more respected than those who don’t.’ This can be contrasted with approaches that focus on knowledge, arguments, information and apologetics.
The book carries an urgent message, dialogue between Christians and Muslims at all levels is not an optional extra. In the words of Cardinal Duval, Archbishop of Algiers (1954-1988), and this should be the last word and the beginning of our own encounters, ‘There is no dialogue except among equals.’
– The Baptist Times, May 2015
'Leave or die', Algeria militants told non-nationals living in their country. Algerian Islamic extremists originally focused their attacks on government officials then shifted to intellectuals and journalists, and targeted defenceless villagers. The mass slaughters were savage and they were random, and the government was ineffectual in stemming the violence.
In his first book (Christian Martyrs for a Muslim People,) Fr Martin McGee told the poignant story of the nineteen priests and sisters assassinated by Islamic fundamentalists in Algeria in the mid-1990s. These events have also been told in the award-winning 2010 film, Of Gods and Men.
In his second book Fr McGee returns to the story of the assassinations of the monks of Tibhirine, but not merely as a further reflection on the tragic Tibhirine events. Rather, taking the example of the well-established friendship and the bond built with the Muslim villagers, it is a challenge to us to engage in a dialogue of the heart'. The monk's understanding of their prayerful neighbours is associated with dialogue of life, dialogue of action, dialogue of theological exchange, and dialogue of religious experience. These four categories are proposed in the 1991 document Dialogue and Proclamation from the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, as an illumination of the way in which Christians can connect in everyday life with their Muslim neighbours.
Fr McGee conveys the tragic story of these religious men killed by fundamentalists in distant Algeria where the dominant religion is Islam, giving the country its cultural and social identity. Closer to home, the fundamentalist activity carried out during the first six months of 2015 promotes fear, and even a belief that Islam is something from which we need to protect ourselves. ... Can we take the challenge presented by Fr McGee seriously, to engage in encounter and dialogue of the heart with Muslim people? With peace in mind, I believe that we must give an affirmative response. Where such an encounter occurs it demands intercultural dialogue because religious experience is always lived and expressed through the medium of culture: not merely at the theological and spiritual level, but also at the political, economic, and social ones.
... The increasing number of Muslim migrants is changing the cultural face of Europe and in Evangelii Gaudium (Nov. 2013) Pope Francis confirms that 'our relationship with the followers of Islam has taken on great importance ... In order to sustain dialogue with Islam, suitable training is essential. Non-Christians, by God's gracious initiative, when they are faithful to their own consciences, can live justified by the grace of God and thus be associated to the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ'.
Believers of both religions are searching for God; and in sharing our spiritual experiences we can foster a sense of fellowship, and live in peace. Dialogue of the heart encounters with our new neighbours will help to dispel fear. Fr McGee's book Dialogue of the Heart comes as a timely reminder that we can collaborate simply as believers in one God.
– Doctrine and Life, September 2015