A group of French Catholics were attacked and faced death threats last Wednesday during a torch-lit procession that had been organized to celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception.
The procession, which took place in the Parisian suburb of Nanterre and saw a group of 30 or so Roman Catholics participate, was interrupted halfway through when a group of a dozen Muslims began threatening to murder the parishioners and the clergy, French daily newspaper Le Figaro reports.
According to Jean-Marc Sertillange, a deacon of the parish which organized the procession, the group of Islamists called parishioners and clergymen “Kafirs,” an Arabic term meaning “infidels,” and yelled, “I swear on the Quran I will cut your throat” towards the priest leading the group.
“But shortly after 7:00 p.m., and while we had advanced only a few hundred yards, a band of strangers on the way attacked us verbally at the time of the first prayer station. They then threw water on us, then grabbed one of the torches which they then threw in our direction,” the deacon said.
The Islamist attackers are also said to have shouted the words: “You are not at home.”
Although police had been present at the beginning of the procession, they were not around at the time of the attack. When they did finally show up, presumably after being informed of the situation, the attackers had already fled the scene. Once the route had been deemed safe again, the procession began again, although the parishioners did not take any additional prayer stops.
Commenting on the incident, French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin on Saturday offered his support to Catholics across France and took to social media to condemn the attack, calling the attacks “unacceptable.”
“The freedom of worship must be able to be exercised in all serenity in our country. Support for Catholics in France,” Darmanin wrote on Twitter.
A day later, Caroline Gontran, the deputy public prosecutor of Nanterre, announced that an investigation into the matter had been opened. Additionally, the Diocese of Nanterre published a statement that recounted the incident’s events on their official social media page.
France has witnessed a sharp rise in anti-Christian attacks over the past several years. One report, released by the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians in Europe (OIDACE), revealed that anti-Christian attacks in France increased by 285 percent between 2008 and 2019
Last week’s attack in Nanterre brings back memories of the martyrdom of Father Jacques Hamel, an 86-year-old priest who was savagely murdered in 2016 by ISIS militants while he gave a mass at his parish in Normandy. In 2020, a particularly horrifying anti-Christian attack was carried out by Islamic terrorists and saw three Catholic parishioners were stabbed to death in Nice’s Notre-Dame cathedral.