France: Evangelicals Respond To Attacks

The National Council of Evangelicals in France (CNEF) has responded to the government’s plans to strengthen state secularism in a December Bill by reiterating that evangelicals in France ‘respect the laws of the republic’, and seek a ‘transparent’ relationship with the national, regional and local authorities.

The efforts to preserve French values was outlined by President Macron prior to the Islamist attacks on French citizens in the autumn, which included two beheadings. In early October he had planned to ‘combat Islamic separatism’ in light of ‘extreme hardening’ of some Islamic groups in France.

CNEF noted that if the government’s plans against Islamist extremism would have side effects on the ‘freedom of religion, thought and expression’, then CNEF would take a stand.

‘The expression of diverse opinions’, including matters of faith, ‘is a condition of any plural democracy and of any collective intelligence of society’.

In the last years, the body representing evangelicals has ‘observed, with regret, that evangelical Protestants sometimes are used by the authorities, and by certain media, to apply a kind of “egalitarian guarantee’’ ’. The CNEF called on the French authorities not to implement widespread and unjust restrictions of religious freedom to all faith communities only with the aim of giving an impression of equal treatment of all religions.

Romain Choisnet of CNEF said: ‘Some state representatives continue to try linking Salafism and evangelicals, but the fruits of evangelical presence in neighbourhoods are very positive and peaceful.’ (Salafist are fundamentalists who believe in a return to the original political and moral practices of Islam. Rather than being a distinct branch of Islam, Salafism is an intellectual current of Sunni Islam. The beliefs have inspired movements including the Muslim Brotherhood, and Salafi Jihadism forms the core belief of Isis.)

In contrast with radical Islam, evangelical churches have the chance to ‘show how a new and fast-growing religious movement can help the common good and be positive for a city, and a whole country’.

Evangelical Focus / The Week / en staff