France is both legally and (increasingly) culturally secular. In practical terms this means that there are many no-longer-used parish churches sprinkled throughout the nation. France also has a growing Muslim population, and recently the “head of the Grand Mosque of Paris said that Muslims needed to double the number of mosques around the country to 4,000 and that using empty churches could help them do that.”
“Why not? It’s the same God, the rites are like neighbors or brothers. I think that Muslims and Christians can coexist,” Dalil Boubakeur said in a morning radio interview.
This has created a backlash amongst french conservatives, including former President Nicolas Sarkozy, who have initiated a “Hands off my church” petition.
A similar uproar was created here in the US in January when the Duke University chapel announced plans to sound “adhan”, which calls Muslims students to Friday prayers. Duke University’s plans were cancelled. And similarly, the imam in Paris also backtracked his comments.
We continually claim that “the church is the people and not the buildings,” and yet it seems that attempts to re-purpose buildings no longer in use as churches are often met with resistance based in little more than nostalgia.
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posted by Jon White