08 April 2008

Church in France Receives Converts From Islam

France is home to Europe’s largest Muslim population. Estimates range from 3-10% out of 62 million French. Most of them come from Algeria and Morocco, though there are others from the Middle East and Asia. It is common walking down the street or riding on the bus to come across Muslim women with hair covered, though most of them seem more secularized, wearing jeans and the garb of the average French woman. Only one-third of the Muslims in France describe themselves as observant believers, and only one-fifth claim to visit the mosque regularly on Fridays. There are approximately 1,500 mosques in France, in comparison to 40,000 Catholic churches.Interestingly enough, many Muslims end up sending their children to private Catholic schools, as they are the only religious option in secular France.

Despite the large numbers of French converting to Islam, it seems there are a significant number leaving Islam for the Catholic faith. From Zenit.org:

PARIS, APRIL 7, 2008 - Between 150 and 200 Muslims convert to Catholicism each year in France, many of them the children of mixed marriages, reported a French daily.

According to the April 2 edition of Le Monde, the topic has been little discussed in recent years. But the Church is now affirming that religious liberty and reciprocity are essential.

Bishop Michel Dubost of Evry is a determined participant in the dialogue with Islam. A dozen Muslims are baptized every year in his diocese. This year, one was baptized in private.

Le Monde said the situation of Catholic converts from Muslim is often dire. The majority face misunderstandings from those around them, it reported, and others reproach them for having "disowned their culture." Some have hidden their conversion even from members of their family.

In this sense, the widely publicized conversion of Magdi Cristiano Allam, baptized by Benedict XVI on Holy Saturday, brought joy to the converts in France: "I bless the Pope, who has put his finger there where it hurts," Mohammed Christophe Bilek, founder of Notre-Dame-de-Kabylie association, said. "Everyone should be able to be baptized. That flows from human rights."

Despite their growing numbers, converts from Islam to Christianity, including all confessions, do not exceed the number converting to Islam. In August of 2006, the French daily La Croix reported that some 3,600 people in France convert to Islam every year.

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