Madeleine Davies

Archive for March, 2011|Monthly archive page

Of Gods and Men

In Films on March 7, 2011 at 10:57 pm

Living as we do in a largely secular society, martyrdom is an act that feels distant, frightening, alien. Dying for your beliefs is the stuff of classical drama, an act that has always posed difficult questions about morality and motives. In our horror of death and doubt about what lies beyond it, martyrdom can feel like a sort of stubborn nihilism, a morbid denial of the beauty of life on earth.

It remains a fascinating subject for film makers, but often in a historical context (A Man for All Seasons tells the story of Thomas More whose refusal to renounce his catholic faith results in his execution at the stake) or as an exploration of the dangers of extremism (Three Lions, Chris Morris’ black comedy about an inept gang of suicide bombers, presented its antiheros as tragically misguided, young men who ultimately falter before the enormity of the sacrifice asked of them).

Yet throughout the world people continue to die for their faith. This week Pakistan’s only Christian minister was assassinated after opposing the country’s blasphemy laws.

“As a Christian, I believe Jesus is my strength,” said Shahbaz Bhatti on a recent visit to Canada. “He has given me a power and wisdom and motivation to serve suffering humanity. I follow the principles of my conscience, and I am ready to die and sacrifice my life for the principles I believe.”

Such principled faith, lived out with integrity and courage to the very end, is incredible to us. But how to explain it?

What is clever about Of Gods and Men, Xavier Beauvois’ film about a group of monks who choose to remain in an Algerian monastery despite the immediate threat of attack by Islamist terrorists, is that it combines depictions of the beauty of life and the longing to hold on to it with an exploration of the faith that can sustain people willing to sacrifice it.

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So lovely to see this

In Health on March 1, 2011 at 8:21 pm

Just over two years ago I left my job at Breakthrough Breast Cancer where I had been project manager for a campaign called The Service Pledge for Breast Cancer. I spent three years visiting breast cancer units across the UK, researching what patients thought about their experience and then working with the specialist nurses and other staff to try and improve it. I loved the job. The changes made were not always massive. I remember at one unit they installed a beautiful picture designed to look like a view of the countryside in the room where women underwent scans, just so that you didn’t have to stare at a blank wall during the process. Read the rest of this entry »