France showing resistance to those who are trying to foment a clash of civilizations
All the ingredients were there.
A suburb of a northern French city where the industrial crisis has left many families of foreign origin out in the cold – idle youth, radicalized by an imported Islam; a small empty church, with an old priest and a few nuns, struggling to keep the flame of Christianity alive…The assassination of Father Jacques Hamel in 2016 could have vindicated all those who constantly feed the theory of the great replacement, the clash of civilizations, the end of Christianity and societal decline.
Guided by ISIS propaganda, this is precisely what Adel Kermiche – a young man from Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray who was not yet 20 years old – wanted to provoke by killing the old priest: that the whole country would be set ablaze.
Except that the “little” church turned out to be stronger than it seemed, supported by a Catholic institution capable of speaking soothingly.
The public saw in this old priest, the son of a railway worker, a part of itself. The town’s communist mayor stood alongside the archbishop.
Then-French President François Hollande – a Socialist concerned with defending secularism – did not hesitate for a minute to say that the murder of the priest touched the sacredness of the Republic.
Many Muslims in France also showed their solidarity with their Catholic countrymen who, in turn, welcomed the gesture.
Some people today like to stir up the fractures of a weakened society.
In the strange presidential electoral campaign now underway, they do not hesitate to reiterate hate speech pitting the French against each other, and to take advantage of the feeling of insecurity to caricature the Muslim community.
The trial of Father Hamel’s murderers, which begins today, is an opportunity to send them another image of France.
That of a resilient country, of a people capable of finding their values. That of a Republic that stands firm.
And which still knows how to cultivate hope.
Isabelle de Gaulmyn is a senior editor of La Croix and a former Vatican correspondent.
With thanks to Isabelle de Gaulmyn and La Croix International, where this article originally appeared.