Thanks to Cristina Rocha & Manuel A. Vásquez, a new book on the Diaspora of Brazilian Religions (Brill, 2013) sheds a much-need light on these new trends.
France is a particularly interesting case study because it hosts both the largest Jewish community in Europe and the largest Muslim community. The electoral rise of the National Front since the mid 80s has polarised the political debate around the issues of immigration and national identity.
This is why this international conference about the evolution and reconfiguration of prejudice towards minorities (Jews and Muslims) in contemporary France is so strategic. Organized by Nonna Mayer, Vincent Tiberj and Tommaso Vitale, it will be held in Sciences Po Paris (France from the 18th to the 20th April 2013. Program here (PDF).
In the last 10 days, observers of the French religious scene have been amazed by this news: the Grand Rabbi of France, Gilles Bernheim, has been accused of plagiarism and cheating on his CV, pretending he obtained an "agregation de philosophie", a prestigious but extremely difficult to obtain achievement. After both accusations appeared to be true, Rabbi Gilles Bernheim finally resigned today after having refused to do so.
As a high moral authority, publically involved in the defense of traditional marriage in the current French debate around same-sex marriage, Gilles Bernheim has shocked many.
More news about it on Thelocal.fr (link).
Many different streams have built up the French left-wing tradition, including a growing trend in favour of multiculturalism, and a lasting pro-palestinian stance.
No wonder if according to polls, about 9 out of 10 French muslims voted for François Hollande (former leader of the Socialist Party) at the last presidential elections (2012).
However, it would be a mistake to conclude that the current French authorities play "soft on radical islam" and jihadists.
All the contrary! (click here to continue)
For lovers of French political and religious History, this is great news: the face of "Good Henri IV", the highly revered French king who died 400 years ago in 1610, has been reconstructed by a team of French researchers led by Philippe Charlier. Using scans of the skull believed to belong to the monarch, they created a very lively portrait of what Henry the fourth (a former Huguenot) looked like.
"Bravo"! (link here)
As far as France is concerned, I choose the huge media attention on "cellar Evangelicals" after a tragic accident that happened in Stains (Paris subburbs) on the 8th of April, 2012 (Easter).
Paris is not only the "city of light". It is also a multicultural metropolis where poverty, unemployment, high property prices and sometimes difficult relations with local authorities mean that minority religion have a hard time finding decent worship places.
For many years, media attention was mainly focused on islam. Scholar Gilles Kepel rightly highlighted a "cellar islam", lacking proper space in French subburbs.
In our last post, we just highlighted the paper published by the Christian Science Monitor on French Evangelicals. A few days after, the GetReligion website (worth a visit!) released a critical review of this paper, written by George Conger.
Although it may be a little bit severe, it is inspiring (read also the comments).
Immigrant Evangelical churches are a fast-growing movment in France. Mostly related to the Francophone world (According to the La nouvelle France protestante 2011 book, there is around 40 millions of French-speaking protestants in the World), they are often poor, and have a hard time finding proper worship places.
Connexion (June 2012) is the CNEF magazine (written in French). Its third issue is the opportunity to get a confirmation that social work, social Gospel and solidarity are back on the map for French Evangelicals, after a few post World War II decades during which these themes became old-fashioned.
Under the umbrella of the CNEF organization, evangelism appears to be defined in a holistic way, starting from the individual to reach social level. One of the reasons of this emphasis may rely on the CNEF distinctives.
Remember Annalisa Butticci’s name : as the Padova International Conference on Pentecostalism reaches its end today, she’s the one to be praised (along with her mentor Enzo Pace) for boosting studies on Pentecostal and immigrant churches in Latin Europe.
After having completed her Ph.D in Sociology and Methodology for Social Science Research from the Catholic University of Milan (Italy), she conducted an ambitious field work, both in Nigerian immigrant churches and in Nigeria (she spent 8 months in Lagos), and she just achieved an amazing task in organizing such a large and successful conference in Padova. (Click to continue)
A memorial service was held on the 31th of March, 2012, in the Avenue du Maine Baptist Church (Paris, France).
Christians from all denominations came to express their thanksgiving for what they considered to be such a lasting and fruitful ministry.
A recent IFOP survey published by the French daily La Croix confirmed this pessimism.
But should the French be so pessimistic? The triumph of "The Artist", a French movie just winning 5 oscars including a best director Oscar for Michel Hazanavicius and a best actor trophy for Jean Dujardin invites also to say COCORICO (the victory song of the rooster, the French national emblem).
Megachurches are not just a US (or Nigerian, Korean...) phenomenon.
Even Secular France has got some, including Paris Christian Center in La Courneuve (North of Paris), attracting more than 4,000 regular attenders every week.
This is why the sudden and unexpected death of Selvaraj Rajiah, senior pastor of PCC, is a major event in the French protestant news.
Even more than the Evangelical growth (between 600,000 and 750,000 Evangelicals in today's France), the Muslim growth is "the" big religious news of the last 40 years.
In 2011 France, there are an estimated five million Muslims living in the country. A century ago, they were referred to as "colonials". During the 1960s, they were known as "immigrants". Today, they are "citizens".
But how have the challenges facing each generation of immigrants changed?
While many speak openly about the collapse of organized Christianity in contemporary France, the heirs of French Reformers (including French-born John Calvin) are currently growing.
Although this is unexpected, it can't be denied. This process goes along with the spread of Evangelical new communities. A third of all current French protestants are Evangelicals, while 60% remain attached to the presbyterian and lutheran traditions. This new landscape draws questions and requires analysis.
Why? Because they celebrate the TOUSSAINT feast (ALL SAINTS's day), a Catholic day designed to honour the memory of the dead.
As millions of French people place flowers on the graves of their loved ones, let's have a look on some famous Parisian cemeteries, thanks to Heather Stimmler-Hall, who posted a very nice illustrated note on her Parisian blog.
Under the umbrella of an Evangelical network whose main ambition is to support Christian witness in France, let's highlight this website: http://www.scoop.it/t/french-evangelical-news.
This new portal puts together news from many different origins (including this blog), and appears to be a valuable ressource in order to document French Evangelicals' contemporary life.
Although all Christian traditions are impacted by immigration, Evangelicalism is at the frontline, as warm, grassroot and zealous Evangelical congregations appear more attractive to migrants than other more traditional religious forms.
In terms of practicing Protestants, however, the rate is very different. Around two thirds (if not three quarters) of practicing Protestants in contemporary France are Evangelicals.
But lots of research still needs to be done in order to know better these French born-again citizens.
In France, everybody knows her for sure, as she served as an able and hard-working Finance minister for 3 years. But the world still needs to get more familiar with the new head International Monetary Fund (IMF), where she replaces…. Another French politician, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, currently facing criminal charges in New York.
My topic was: Regulating religion in the Parisian area. You want to know more? Here is my PDF draft paper (sorry, you won't see the Powerpoint presentation, but there was one also).
It is a preliminary document which will need to be revised, improved and extended.
Watching the French media, one of the many things that puzzles me during the current Arabic revolutions (from Tunisia to Egypt) is that in spite of the French decline, French language is still used by many (even by some in Lybia).
Why? Many strong historical reasons explain that. But there are also some more pragmatic reasons. I just found a quite well-documented article (published online in 2008) which explains pretty well why French language might remain "the most useful Second Language for English speakers".
How do the French and the Brits react to this time of sacrifice ?
Glory be to Schrank, everything is explained in one single drawing (see below).
Here is the link: BBC page on French Laïcité (secularism).
This page rightly emphasizes the importance of French History:
In a very cruel, unfair and misleading editorial, the New York Times criticized the French will to ban the Burqa in the streets (one should say the Niqab: full radical muslim face-covering veil). This editorial was published on January 26, 2010.
The title was: "The Taliban would applaud" (sic).
During the whole 2009 year, French Protestant have been celebrating the 500th anniversary of the birth of John Calvin, the French-born church reformer who inspired a movement that now has tens of millions of adherents worldwide.
Unfortunatly, I was not in my home and I did not have the opportunity to answer in due time.