PARIS (BP) — International Mission Board workers in France pray Wednesday’s (Jan. 7) terrorist attack in Paris by Muslim extremists will not result in a greater divide between secularism and people of faith.
“The journalists who lost their lives have now become martyrs for the freedom of the press and the freedom of speech,” said Tara Chaney, an IMB worker living in France. “We are praying that the outcry against these heinous acts committed by religious extremists will not become outcries against anyone who claims to have any sort of religious belief.”
According to Mark Stone, a church planter in Southern France, the polarization of French politics can be traced almost entirely to immigration issues and racial and religious fear.
“There exists today a delicate tension in France that teeters toward breaking, and [Wednesday’s] tragic events will likely serve to further stir up the tension,” he said.
This act of terrorism is the worst in France in 50 years, leaving 12 dead and three critically wounded at the offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. The weekly is known for running pieces critical of Muslim prophets, Islamic State and terrorism, a practice that has resulted in protests and death threats from Muslim extremists for years.
Last night (Jan. 7), more than 15,000 people filled the streets of Paris carrying signs saying “Je suis Charlie” (I am Charlie), an act that indicates the strong solidarity the public feels with their fallen countrymen. Today is a national day of mourning, and flags will be flown at half-mast for three days.
“I wish I could be there to mourn with them,” Stone, who is currently out of the country, said.
Stone said he doesn’t believe this terrorist act will trigger an increased risk for missionaries. “I don’t really see it that way — this was a targeted attack that had nothing to do with us. Implications for backlash and a stronger divide between secularism and all religion as well as racial tension are my main concerns following this horrific event.”
Chaney said, “Right now, we are praying that the people of France will turn toward God and not away from Him.” Stone noted, “France needs to mourn. France needs healing. France needs compassion. France needs Christ.”
To learn more about the spiritual needs in France, please visit http://imb.org/france.