Attacks on French churches back to ‘normal’ level

Attacks on French churches have moved back up to their “normal” level after a reduction during the country’s March 17 to May 11 lockdown.

A spokesperson for an organization led by young Catholics, Protège ton église (Protect Your Church) says during the pandemic attacks continued on a smaller scale.

This was despite the lockdown rules only permitting people to leave their homes for a limited number of reasons, including exercise and shopping.

“But this lull was only temporary. We deplore a ‘return to normal’ of this unfortunate trend,” Protège ton église says.

Since 2017, the Paris-based L’Observatoire de la Christianophobie (Observatory of Christianophobia) has recorded anti-Christian incidents in France month by month on interactive maps.

The most recent map available, for August 2020, shows 11 incidents, comprising six acts of vandalism and five thefts. At the same time last year, the Observatory recorded nine disturbances on its map.

The French Interior Ministry recorded 996 anti-Christian acts in 2019 – an average of about three per day.

Protège ton église was founded by two friends in 2019 in response to a wave of nationwide desecrations of French churches. Members hold peaceful nighttime vigils outside churches to deter potential aggressors.

Most of the group’s active members are young people and those in charge of the association are very young too,” a spokesperson said.

“This is significant in the sense that the youth understood that it could change things, that it carried real weight in the face of the harm that was being done to the heritage that our parents and grandparents knew.”

Older supporters contribute through prayer and donations and by relaying information.

Protège ton église groups have been established across France.

The group is careful not to identify its members, asking vigil participants to publish photos with their backs to the camera. Leaders only identify themselves in public by their first names.

The Protège spokesperson also says participants have to show “great caution” during vigils, for example, by carrying cell phones in case they needed to contact the police.

Protège ton église are about to expand their role to work alongside the organization S.O.S. Calvaires.

This group, initially active in north-west France, wants to expand its work of safeguarding calvaries, oratories and chapels throughout the country.

“We recently broadcast a video of their actions,” Protège spokesperson says.

“It is by seeing their work, and the goals we had in mind for the future of Protège ton église, that we launched the idea of this mutually beneficial partnership.

“This will not prevent us from continuing the evening church vigils and covering Christianophobic misdeeds on our [Facebook] page.”’


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