Why France has become such a target for terrorists?
By Janey DeMeo, Special to ASSIST News Service, who lived in France for 22 years
NICE, FRANCE (ANS – July 16, 2016) — As terror has once again hit France, this time killing 84 people — including ten children and two Americans — and wounding over two hundred, many fears and questions arise.
As onlookers enjoyed Bastille Day celebration fireworks on Thursday, July 14th (similar to America’s Independence Day), a huge refrigerated truck driven by a 31-year-old Tunisian, Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, which was full of explosives and ammunition, charged into the crowds at the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, southern France, wreaking chaos.
This deadly massacre came just eight months after the deadly terror attack at the Bataclan club in Paris (see my article here: https://www.assistnews.net/index.php/component/k2/item/1225-paris-city-of-sadness), and was preceded by the deadly January 2015 Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack, also in Paris.
Earlier this year, Belgium was struck with terror, not to mention many other parts of the world, including closer to home in Orlando, at the gay Pulse nightclub last month (and in San Bernardino, California, in November 2015). The rapid escalation of these massacres is alarming.
But what is it about France that particularly allows such heinous acts to creep in? Let’s look more closely at what happened in Nice and try to understand it.
First take a look at the killer, Tunisian-born Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel who was a career criminal known to police. He was also a radicalized Muslim. According to Col. Allen West’s recent article, Lahouaiej-Bouhlel was heard shouting “Allahu Akbar” — “God is great” in Arabic, before opening fire on police officers there to protect the once joyful crowd of 30,000.
France’s President, François Hollande, says that Lahouaiej-Bouhlel “was radicalized very quickly.” He was known as being aggressive and a loner who became depressed when his wife left him. But none of this suggests why someone would open themselves up to radicalization, so we need to look at it in its context in France.
As a former missionary, ministering in France with my husband, Louis, for some 22 years, I will share my experience of living there. Many people we met were charming, but very few knew God. And it was nonetheless not uncommon to meet people who were also aggressive, lonely or depressed. No doubt, an education system which propagates that God does not exist, didn’t help; in fact, it offered no hope.
We lived in a village between Nimes and Montpellier (where we founded a church and the Nimes Theological Institute). Many of our neighbors were Muslims. Among them, several were violent, and threatened to beat up kids in our church. In our many years there, few Muslims received the Lord in spite of our reaching out to them. Only one girl in our Bible College, Naima, was a former Muslim. (She had escaped from Algeria where her life was in danger because she had received Christ via a radio broadcast.)
Our strategy to reach the Muslims was no different than the way we hoped to reach everyone else: prayer, friendship (where possible), and evangelism.
Louis and I often rose early to walk around the village and pray for souls, and many people from our church joined us. Then, every Saturday night, together with people from our church, we would evangelize in Nimes, Montpellier or even Marseilles — a port city about 1½ hours from where we lived, which is reportedly 40% Islamic. And, one of my favorite activities, on Saturday afternoons, was when we held a Bible club for kids living in the Zup (aka project areas).
Many of those children came from Muslim families. We would ask the mothers (we rarely saw any fathers) if we could take the kids for a few hours to play games, enjoy a yummy snack and — wait for it — teach the Bible. Perhaps the prospect of getting rid of their kids for a few hours was too much to resist, so many let the kids come.
But here’s the cruncher. Contrary to French people, who average one child per family, sometimes two, Muslims have many children. They are encouraged to proliferate and thereby take over nations. So we typically had, for example, Achbed, Rachid, Mohamed, Karim and Moustafa — all from one family. This was between 1981 and 2004. Thus, all those children are adults today. To my knowledge few are going on with Jesus today, but all of them who attended regularly heard the Gospel. When things get rough, let us hope they will remember who the real God is.
But what about all of the Muslims who have never heard the Gospel? When we lived in France, there were reportedly only ½% evangelical Christians in the nation. No wonder we never came across another church or Christians evangelizing. Such absence of the Gospel message leaves a vacuum. And together with a sense of hopelessness, vacuums can open doors to dangerous ideology.
It is wort noting that France, like the UK and Germany, has for decades opened their arms wide to refugees and particularly those from Muslim countries. Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, the Front National MP for Vaucluse, sees this as a link to terrorism. In a video posted on Facebook, she recognized that terrorism is the killer’s goal, but suggests that it is fostered by excessive immigration. “Those also responsible are those who, each year, allow a number of immigrants equivalent to the size of the city of Bordeaux, to legally enter France,” states Maréchal-Le Pen. She also tweeted, “If we don’t kill Islamism, it will kill us.”
Whether we agree with those statements of not, it seems that France has reached a tipping point. And it came about progressively, slowly, like boiling a frog. And while the influx may have begun in part because France feels bad about colonizing Algeria in the 1800s, it is now a way of life and will probably not be stopped. So what can we do? I do not pretend to have all the answers but here a biblical response. Let’s pray for laborers to go into the harvest, for churches to actively live and preach the Gospel. Let’s pray for souls and evangelize.
Who knows: God might put someone on our path who doesn’t yet know Jesus but who, like my husband and I, may end up church-planting and evangelizing in France. Some sow, some water. Everyone has a part to play. What is yours?
Photo captions: 1) 1) The killer truck surround by first-responders after the driver was killed. (Reuters). 2) Bodies strewn in the street. 3) The killer’s ID. 4) Muslims living in France make their views known. 5) The DeMeo’s and their original team to France in the 1980s. 5) Louis and Janey DeMeo, pictured at the studios of the Holy Spirit Broadcasting Network (http://hsbn.tv), after doing an interview there about their time in France. (Photo: Dan Wooding).
About the writer: Janey DeMeo is founding-president of Orphans First — a Christ-centered non-profit ministry helping underprivileged children around the world. She is an author, freelance writer and Bible teacher — and has worked with husband, Louis, as a church-planter in France for 22 years. Her website is: www.orphansfirst.org.
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