Last night my husband and I watched a French movie titled “Of Gods and Men” with English subtitles. We learned many of the Catholic rituals that were followed by eight monks in the two hours of viewing. They were living in Algeria back in the mid 1990s. Before what the rest of the world now knows after 9/11 about Muslim extremists and terrorists. These priests made the tough decision to stay on for the benefit of the villagers who they cared for rather than leave to save their own skins.
Earlier we saw how the Croatians at a work site were slashed in their throats by the extremists. The warning on imdb.com was that “Of Gods and Men” was a volatile, extremely violent movie. I was ready for the end to see all eight monks slashed to death because we knew that they would be martyred for their Christian faith. Didn’t happen quite the way we thought but I don’t want this to be a spoiler for those who have NOT seen this slow-moving but good movie. I recommend it highly.
How does it relate to Kazakhstan? I think you have foreign people who have gained the trust of the Kazakhs and Kazakhstanis by learning the language (Kazakh and Russian). They live in Almaty or Astana sacrificing what could be an easier, “better” life in U.K. or the U.S. or other western countries. (Not many I know of are actually living in the countryside beside Peace Corps volunteers) However, people I know are following a higher calling. That is what keeps them living beside those who are struggling to make ends meet, those who are chaffing under tyrannical laws that make no sense whatsoever.
BUT, for all the complaining there might be about the Kazakh haves and the have-nots, the standard of living being so high in the cities while Kazakh people suffer in the rural areas due to high unemployment or alcoholism, they still have their freedom. As we saw in the movie, women were brutalized for not wearing the full garments covering all of their body. Women were not able to have an education. They were twisted up in fear about whether their children would survive because the Muslims terrorists who ruled the area wanted them to be afraid, very afraid. The ongoing battle was against the corrupt, government armed forces against the terrorists. The armed forces wanted the priests to join sides with them in their brutality against the terrorists. They would have none of it. So, the Christians were caught in the middle wanting peace. Turns out that the French people LOVED this movie because they are all about freedom.
That brings me to another movie we watched during the 4th of July weekend. “The Patriot” starring Mel Gibson. What is it about Mel and violence and blood? I had to cover my eyes more than once because it was so brutal and terribly bloody. Of course, war is all of that but Gibson took it to the next extreme level with some good principles in place. The French helped the early American settlers to gain their freedom from the British imperialists. French are all about liberty, as are Americans!
Maybe that is what Kazakhstan needs to sort out. Who will really help them get out from under the former Communist past and to stay ahead or away from the terrorist element that would LOVE to come in to strike fear in the people. Not to mention the other threat to the east, a very big country that is burgeoning with many young males who are a product of the “One Child” policy. Kazakhstan is the country to watch to see how they can stay afloat in wanting peace. That is what the eight priests in “Of Gods and Men” wanted but they were martyred for their faith. What is Kazakhstan’s faith? Is it in themselves and their past? Is it really Muslim? Is it materialism and a reaction against communism? Time will tell…