Proselytizers distributing gospels in northern Paris.
PARIS, December 31, 2005 (IslamOnline.net) – At the Porte de Clingncourt underground terminal in northern Paris, a couple of youths are busy distributing gospels among passers-by in their annual tradition on the eve of the New Year. But most of the receivers were apparently Muslims and Arabs at the heavily populated Muslim area of Saint Quen.
“An increasing number of Muslims convert to Christianity especially on Christmas,” Fadila, a Parisian of Algerian origin, told IslamOnline.net while handing out gospels translated into Arabic to people of North African appearance.
“Arabs and Muslims are fed up with the badly damaged image of their faith [in the West] and escaped to the Messiah. Every Sunday the Church of Saint Quen receives a new batch of Muslims,” added Fadila, who converted to Christianity three years ago.
French Arabs have changed their names to spare themselves police and employers' discrimination, and dozens have opted for the new lease of life to escape the harsh reality.
French Muslims and Arabs, estimated at some six million, are heavily concentrated in the Paris suburb of Saint Denis, the scene of deadly riots by angry immigrant youths in October.
Years of government negligence and marginalization have turned the northern Paris district of Saint Denis, where half a million Muslims live, into a hotbed for unemployment and aberration.
Many voiced anger at racial discrimination despite being born in France, a lack of educational and employment prospects and police harassment.
IOL correspondent says that Algerian tribesmen who immigrated to France are the favorite target of proselytizers.
He says that the converts have established the first North African church in France and called it Notre Dame de Kabylie.
They further founded the Iqbal Association in 2001 with the aim task of proselytizing North Africans and giving some advice to the newcomers to stick to their new faith.
Followers of the international Jehovah's Witnesses organization, a mix of Christianity and Judaism, have also joined the proselytizing drive in France, paying visits to Muslims at their homes carrying their books and presents, says IOL correspondent.
The organization branch in France have further distributed their tenets glossy magazines and brochures in Arabic.
Christian organizations in secular France, in general, are used to sending Santa Claus to schools on Christmas Eve to distribute presents and sweet to children irrespective of their religion.
The Christmas tree with its ornaments has proved a source of friction last Christmas some teachers in a Paris school demanded to remove it because it violated the secular nature of the state.
There is no an official number of Muslims who converted to Christianity in France.
But France Echos Web site, however, put at 7,000 the number of North Africans who converted to Christianity over the past few years.
The Web site, which closely follows up news of proselytizing in the country, said some 50,000 Christians had reverted to Islam according to a 2004 study undertaken by French security agencies.