What a tragedy. Praying for the firemen on the scene.
Below links from The Guardian Live news feed on the Cathedral
- French billionaire pledges €100m to rebuilding efforts
- The “worst has been avoided”, says Macron
- Fire started accidentally – preliminary investigation
- Two towers saved, but fireman seriously injured – reports
- Main structure “saved and preserved
- Macron arrives at the scene
- Next hour and a half is “crucial” says Paris fire department
See more updates here
VOP NOTE: France has had several weeks of escalating vandalism and arson attacks on churches. Compared to the 1st quarter of 2018, France has seen a 53% rise in anti-Christian acts during the 1st quarter of 2019. Please keep France in your prayers.
(Voice of the Persecuted) France—Father Jacques Hamel, (age 85), was a French Catholic priest in the parish of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray in the Normandy region in northern France. Local media reported that he still officiated regularly as an auxiliary priest at the church in St Étienne-du-Rouvray, near Rouen, and in neighbouring Elbeuf where he would step in when the parish priest was not available.
While leading the service in the absence of the parish priest on Tuesday morning, two Islamic jihadists entered the church and took Father Hamel, two nuns and two worshipers hostage. But they targeted the elderly priest and slit his throat.
Sister Danielle, one of the hostages, was in the church celebrating mass when the men stormed the building. She described the brutality of the attackers.
“‘They told me, “you Christians, you kill us”. They forced him to his knees. He wanted to defend himself. And that’s when the tragedy happened. They recorded themselves. They did a sort of sermon around the altar, in Arabic. It’s a horror.’
While they were attacking the priest, Sister Danielle managed to escape and call for help. Reports claim one of the hostages, an elderly parishioner, suffered severe knife wounds. The Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility and two of its “soldiers” had carried out the attack.
When police arrived they tried to negotiate with the attackers, whom prosecutor Francois Molins said had lined up three hostages in front of the door as human shields to prevent police storming the church.
The three – two nuns and one parishioner – exited the church, followed by the attackers, one of whom was carrying a gun, who charged police shouting “Allahu akbar”, Mr Molins added. The pair were shot dead by police.
One of the attackers had fake explosives in a backpack. It would take hours for police to ensure the area was safe.
Father Moanda-Phuati, the parish priest of the Église St.-Étienne, where Father Hamel served, quickly returned from his trip. He spoke about the martyred priest and told French news agency—Le Figaro,
“He was a courageous priest for his age. Priests have the right to retire at 75 but he preferred to work in the service of the people because he still felt strong. He was very popular, a good man, simple and without extravagance. We benefited greatly from his experience and wisdom at the parish of Saint-Etienne. He served people for most of his life.”
Fr. Hamel was loved by the congregation. In the June 2016 edition of the parish news letter, Fr, Hamel shared,
The summer holiday time:
Spring was rather cool. If our moral was somewhat lowered, patience, was going to happen eventually. And the holidays.
The holidays are a time to take a distance with our usual activities. But this is not a simple bracket. It is a time of relaxation, but also of healing, dating, sharing, conviviality.
A Healing time: Some will take a few days for a retreat or a pilgrimage. Other reread the Gospel, alone or with others, as a word that sustains today. Others can recharge the great book of creation admiring them so different and so beautiful landscape that we rise and we talk about God.
May we hear in those moments God’s invitation to take care of this world, do, where we live, a warmer, more human, more fraternal.
a time to meet with relatives, friends: a time to take the time to experience something together.A time to be considerate of others, whoever they are.
A time of sharing: Sharing our friendship, our joy. Sharing our support to children, showing that they matter to us.
A time of prayer as: Attentive to what happens in our world at this time. Pray for those who are most in need, for peace, for a better living together.
It will still be the year of mercy. Are we attentive heart of beautiful things to each and those who may feel a bit more alone.
Let the holidays allow us to refuel friendship joy and relaxation. Then we can, better equipped, hit the road together.
Happy holidays to all!
Vatican Radio reported Pope Francis is horrified and shocked by an attack in a church in Rouen, in northern France, where a priest was slain and another hostage was seriously wounded.
A statement released by Fr Federico Lombardi, Director of the Holy See Press Office said: “we are particularly shocked because this horrible violence took place in a Church, in which God’s love is announced, with the barbarous killing of a priest and the involvement of the faithful”.
Fr Lombardi also said the Pope shares the pain and the horror caused by this absurd violence and expresses firm condemnation of every form of hatred and prays for the victims.
French president François Hollande addressed the nation following the church attack. He visited the scene on Tuesday, said the country is now ‘at war’ with ISIS after the terror group claimed responsibility. He warned that the militant threat in the country has never been so severe. He also said France will use all human and physical resources in the war against Islamist militancy.
(L’OBSERVATOIRE DE LA CHRISTIANOPHOBIE) the growing concern of the Catholic and Protestant authorities about the persecution that Christians migrants suffer from Muslim migrants in Germany. Cardinal Rainer Woelki said at an ecumenical meeting in Düsseldorf Saturday 13 February, “The fear increases that politicians and the authorities do not take seriously enough such threats [against Christians in refugee centers]. The persecution of Christians is not a thing of past ages.” He demanded that Germany defend greater religious freedom. For his part, Pastor Gottfried Martens said the “harassment” against the Christian migrants in refugee centers in Germany has increased. He affirmed that Christians were forced to watch beheading videos, were banned from the common kitchen because they were”unclean”, beaten and Christian necklaces torn from their necks. The pastor suggested Christians and Muslims needed to be be housed in separate shelters. “When I talk to politicians, they tell me that the churches do not consider that necessary accommodations are separated and I look ridiculous (…) Our efforts to be tolerant, which is in itself praiseworthy, are not so far allow us to let Christians become a kind of guinea pigs. ” (Source: Catholic Herald , February 19)
Among the thousands of Middle Eastern migrants, Christians who have fled to Europe have discovered that a familiar burden has followed them, religious harassment = PERSECUTION.
World Watch Monitor reports that Christian migrants have been subjected to discrimination, harassment and violence from Muslim migrants with extremist views. One Iranian convert to Christianity was murdered.
The phenomenon has been observed in various locations across Europe, including in the camp of Grande-Synthe in northern France, where Iranian converts have been targeted by migrants from Iraq.
The situation has raised great concerns among local churches, which are now supporting migrants by supplying them with food, clothing, and, in some cases, even shelter.
It all started at the turn of the year, recalls Philippe Dugard, the Pastor of Église Evangélique du Littoral, or EEDL, a church in the neighbouring town of Saint-Pol-sur-Mer, which has spearheaded the relief effort in Grande-Synthe.
“Between November and December, there was a group of Iranians who confessed their belonging to Christ, who started to attend our church. Some were Orthodox, while others said they were Christians but were not truly converted. But we got to know them, and we felt they had a real spiritual thirst,” he said.
“And then one evening [14 December], we were informed that two of them were stabbed and the whereabouts of a third one was unknown.
“We then said that as Christians we cannot leave them alone in that situation, and the victims themselves told us that they no longer wanted to stay in the camp, as they felt threatened.”
The incident marked the beginning of EEDL’s support for migrant victims of persecution.
For the next few days, the victims were put up in hotels, before they were moved to a church in Dunkirk, the closest city to the camp.
Just one of the victims from the initial group remains, a 29-year-old who wished to remain anonymous.
“Generally the Kurdish mafia in the camp are against Christians,” he said. “When we gave our money to them for them to help us to go to England, they didn’t help us and they just stole our money and did not give it back. Then they attacked us and called us kafir [infidels] and dirty. They came and cut me with a knife and they beat my friends.”
He said there are still some Christians in the camp, but that many are too scared to speak about their faith.
“Yes, there are still some Christians there in the camp,” he said, “But they don’t prefer to stay there beside these strong Muslims. They are so racist, they just want to clear the camp to be without Christians.”
He added that a mosque has been created in the camp, and that the Call to Prayer resounds around the camp every day, but unlike the nearby Calais camp, there is no church.
An explosive cocktail
Located in the northwest of France, beside the English Channel, the camp of Grande-Synthe hosts around 2,500 to 3,000 migrants – mostly Kurds from Iraq and Syria, but also some Iranians.
Tensions and other forms of violence are common in the camp, said a social worker, who wished to remain anonymous for fear that the report could impact upon his work with the Christians.
Ethnic differences have created tension in the camp between the Iraqis and Iranians, of whom there are only around 50. The thousands of Iraqi Kurds are mostly Muslim, while some of the Iranian minority are Christians.
Some of them attend local churches secretly, because they are scared of the Muslim migrants and smugglers, who hold sway within the camp. Night raids, theft and violence are among the common threats.
On the night of 14 December, a knife attack left several Christians injured. One of them, a 19-year-old named Mohammad, was murdered. The local police were informed and an investigation is underway. Police did not respond to World Watch Monitor requests for information about the investigation.
A staff member at the Mayor’s office in Grande-Synthe said there is no security problem in the camp, which she said is open to external visitors. However, police now patrol the entrance.
On 26 January, a shooting between rival gangs of smugglers erupted, prompting a huge police deployment around the camp. Security checks are now carried out at the entrance of the camp, and visitors must acquire prior authorisation from the Mayor’s office.
There are some who fear members of the so-called Islamic State may be among the migrants, intent on radicalising other migrants and imposing Sharia inside the camp.
A settled tension
Two months after the attacks against the Iranian migrants, the tension has settled, according to Dugard.
The majority of the victims of the December attacks have moved on. Some managed to reach England, their preferred destination, while others, tired of waiting for a hypothetical crossing or because of a lack of financial resources, returned to Iran. Others have left for other European destinations, with the hope of reaching England another way.
“Sometimes they just won’t show up at dinner time, even though we have already laid the table,” said Dugard. “They are always in search of new routes because the passages via Calais and Dunkirk seem completely blocked.
“But in the meantime, other refugees, including moderate Muslims who heard about the support provided to the Iranians, have now arrived.”
A group of about 10 migrants, only one of whom professes a Christian faith, are currently staying in a church in Dunkirk. A non-religious Iranian in his 30s, who identified himself as Max, complained of the poor conditions and lax security of the camp. A fellow Iranian, a Muslim man in his 20s who identified himself as Farhad, agreed.
“The living conditions in the camp are deplorable,” he said. “It is no place for humans. It is very cold and people fall sick easily.”
Local churches are struggling to cope with the demands being placed upon them, as they seek to support migrants of all faiths and none.
What started as an emergency has become a long-term commitment, Dugard said.
“We are wondering: what is the best option for us? Do we have the spiritual, human and financial resources to continue this work, which is full-time social work?” he said.
“Yet the migrants are really suffering. They crossed a multitude of borders and faced various obstacles to get here, in the hope of a better life. But they realise that it is often hopeless to cross to England and have ended up living in precarious conditions often more difficult than in their countries.”
Those conditions could be improved if migrants exploring Christianity could do so safely, said Michel Varton, director of Open Doors France, part of a worldwide charity that supports Christians who live under threat because of their faith.
“Many Christians amongst the refugees are fleeing persecution and discrimination. They are already traumatised by their terrible experience in the Middle East,” Varton said. “Imagine their despair to realise that, once here in France, they are suffering the same discrimination and hate from fellow immigrants.
“The local churches have shown dedication to help the Christian refugees and those who are genuinely interested in the Christian faith. The authorities must allow them to have simple buildings where they can meet and worship God in security and make sure that values of freedom of belief reign in the camps. It’s totally unacceptable that someone could lose their life for their faith once in France.”
In addition to the lack of resources, there is a logistical problem, as different churches act without much coordination.
Moreover, various groups and associations from all over Europe are also providing assistance to migrants, which has only added to the pressure, said Dugard.
“If some groups are useful, others believe that they can save the world,” he said. “They often come with very aggressive speeches, for two to three days, and then leave. In the end, their actions are doing more harm than good, because after they leave it becomes difficult for us to do serious work.”
Talks are currently underway among churches, as they seek to create a regional platform, which would come underneath the umbrella of the Conseil National des Evangéliques de France, the national Evangelical Church network.
The Grande-Synthe camp stretches over 20 hectares (nearly 50 acres) of marshland. It is difficult to walk through the slippery mud without proper boots.
With thousands of people, including women and children, living in such unsanitary conditions, respiratory problems and infectious diseases are common, says Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), which provides emergency care alongside Médecins du Monde (Doctors of the World).
According to MSF, a new camp, equipped with heated tents and located three kilometres from the current camp, will accommodate migrants in the coming days.
However, the migrant crisis remains a very complex issue, says Matthew Bosiger, the pastor of the Salvation Army Church in Dunkirk.
“They are a bit like in a prison,” he said. “It is good to try to improve their situation, but they have no plan to stay in France. The migrants have only one thought in mind: to cross the channel to England, at any cost.”
Many say they have relatives or friends already settled there and the living conditions seem very attractive – partly because many know a little English, but also because of the prospect of better economic opportunities. Smugglers take advantage of migrants’ desperation to reach the UK by charging them everything that they have, with no guarantee they will succeed.
Voice of the Persecuted shared last August how Christian refugees moved from asylum accommodation after threats by Islamists in Sweden. The Christians feared for their safety after it was demanded that they stop wearing Christian symbols, like crosses around their necks. And that they were not welcome in common areas, such as kitchens when the aggressive Muslim group was there.
After receiving no help when the atmosphere became intimidating, the Christian refugees dared not stay and decided it would be safer to find other accommodations.
In a newly shared CBN report, they describe as shocking, an ordinary French citizen who has been watching the Islamization of Paris decided that the world needed to see what was happening to his city. The report also offers a warning to the West by French politician, Jean-François Copé.
In April 2014, we shared a video report highlighting ‘No Go Zones’ in France. The report Muslim immigrants refusing to assimilate into French society, taking over areas and terrorizing French natives in communities some families have lived in for generations.
Violent crime can happen anywhere and to anyone and for many reasons, but in parts of France, it has become especially dangerous to be white.
After sharing our report, Christians In Pakistan: Facts That Go Unnoticed By Western Media: Unnoticed Or Ignored which discusses how Sharia is a dominant force in persecuting Christians and other religious minorities. It also explains how many Muslims do not assimilate when relocating to a non-Islamic nation, with a plan to impose their laws and lifestyle, SHARIA.
Once again we learn of media silence and Islamization. Today, in a report by CBN, we read that France is dealing with this very issue. The report claims there are parts of France where natives are no longer welcome. Muslim immigrants now consider these areas, their territory. And natives (called whites) enter at their own risk. The French are calling them, ‘No Go Zones’ and ‘Urban Sensitive Zones’. Even the police don’t enter these places, or don’t enforce the law. France’s multi-cultural experiment going up in flames.