France, of late, has an especially tense relationship with Islam. This is adding to the overall tension in our country right now… already greatly uneasy due to COVID.
Let me give you a quick overview.
France sits just across the Mediterranean from Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria. Through the years this has meant that large numbers of North Africans have settled in France and, by extension, it means that there’s a significant Muslim population throughout the country.
Religion or Culture?
France more or less insists that all residents adopt what they call ‘the values of the Republic’, which are essentially, secular Western values. Generally speaking, institutions are as removed from overt, traditional, Christian values as they are those of other faiths.
The French fully espouse the separation of church and state.
The difficulty with Islam though, is that it’s as much their culture as it is their faith. So, what might not ‘fly’ from a religious point of view can sometimes be put forward as primarily cultural. For example, where it might be difficult to establish a mosque, it may be possible to establish a ‘cultural center’. See what I mean?
This makes the French nervous to begin with so when things happen to upset the already uneasy balance… Tempers flare. Two such things happened of late:
- Junior High School teacher Samuel Paty (photo) had his throat slit, at the end of the school day, just meters from the school where he taught, for – in the context of a class on freedom of expression – he showed caricatures, that a French magazine published, of the prophet Mohamed.
- This is perfectly acceptable in terms of Republican Values.
- It is completely unacceptable for Muslims. Many protested and one 18 year-old Muslim immigrant took vengeance for what is, according to the strictest tenets of Muslim law/practice, blasphemy.
- Three people were attacked (again, two throats slit) in Nice’s Notre Dame Basilica, in the south of France. The perpetrator, a recently arrived, 21 year-old Tunisian refugee.
Of course the government is going to react.
Of course it’s going to take tough measures.
Of course it’s going to reaffirm Republican Values.
Of course that means the perception of a collision course with Islam.
So begins an escalation…
- France enacts measures to try to appease its own non-Muslim citizens because of legitimate fears (all it takes is a single individual with a knife… hard to protect against that).
- French Muslims feel like they’re being lumped in with a few radicalized individuals.
- Muslim countries call for a boycott of French products, citing anti-Islamic measures and so on…
One More Source of Anxiety
So… as if Covid-19, confinement & economic hardship was not enough, there is a element of fear of ‘lone-wolf’ attacks that inherently carry religious connotations.
This is the France that we live in and more than ever, France needs to experience that peace that comes from knowing the Lord.
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors,
2 Corinthians 5: 17-20
As always, let what you read inform your prayers for us and for France.
God bless you today!
I am praying or France -you and your family especially. I had read bout the teacher. What an awful thing.
Isn’t it something Michele! I built one of my classes around it last week, with 3 groups of university students, to be able to discuss not just that particular event, but how we handle conflict / disagreement in general. I’d say that, as a world culture, we’re increasingly not very good about it. Come quickly Lord, and help us until you do!
So sweet an opportunity-and sadly needed.