The Baptist Center for Ethics has produced a free, on-line resource to help people in faith communities explore ideas of vengeance and peacemaking in a soon-to-be-released film about the terrorist murders of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Germany. Culture Editor Cliff Vaughn says the release of Steven Spielberg’s “Munich,” on Dec. 23, by all accounts, provides an opportunity to crack open both history books and the Bible.

While the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, are still fresh in the minds of Americans, Vaughn said, the attack on Israeli athletes on Sept. 5, 1972, “has been ignored by some and forgotten by others.” A new generation of Americans likely would never have heard of the incident, Vaughn said, had Spielberg not put it on film.

On that day in September, eight members of a Palestinian splinter group known as Black September infiltrated the Olympic Village at the Munich Olympic Games and took 11 Israelis hostages. The terrorists killed two of them almost immediately, and the remaining nine were killed when German officials botched a rescue operation.

Five of the eight terrorists were also killed, but the three survivors were eventually freed by the Germans in a shady hostage-negotiation circumstance.

After the attacks, the Israeli government launched a counter-terrorist operation allegedly known as “Wrath of God.” Israel’s intelligence agency, the Mossad, oversaw the targeted killings of Palestinian terrorist masterminds.

That counter-terrorist initiative is the subject of “Munich,” which Spielberg treats with moral concern. His approach has drawn controversy, as some viewers believe he portrays the Mossad agents having doubts about their mission where none existed.

Vaughn, who has a doctorate in American culture studies, said he believes Christians should be talking as much about the Spielberg film as they are about the blockbuster film version of C.S. Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.”

“The land of Narnia is interesting, but no more interesting than the land of our own Middle East, Vaughn said. “We must try to understand what is and what has been going on.”

To facilitate such thoughtful dialogue and guide individuals to consider ways Christians should respond to acts of terrorism and violence, the Baptist Center for Ethics is offering a free resource available as a downloadable eight-page PDF file.

The resource, titled “Munich: A Discussion Guide on Terrorism and Peacemaking,” includes a link to the film’s official Web site; background information about the Sept. 5, 1972, Palestinian terrorist attack on Olympic Village in Munich, Germany, and Israel’s counter-terrorism move; more about the controversy surrounding this film; and a series of discussion questions groups can use after viewing the film. Also included are links to other free resources on related to the film.

“As Spielberg himself has said, ‘Munich’ won’t solve the world’s problems,” said Vaughn. “But it’s an opportunity for us, controversy aside, to consider our own philosophies about terrorism, peace, preemptive violence and, I suppose, love.”

Earlier this year, BCE offered another free resource to help churches observe 9/11.

“We’re pleased to offer this free resource as an expression of our gratitude for those who consistently look to us as their primary Bible study resource provider,” said Jan Turrentine, managing editor of Acacia Resources, the BCE’s publishing imprint.

Turrentine said she also hoped the resource will introduce BCE materials to others, and that it’s quality “will encourage them to sample and use our ongoing, undated Bible-study curricula.”

Click here to download “Munich: A Discussion Guide on Terrorism and Peacemaking.”

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