Paris tragedy leaves Parisians open to Gospel

PARIS (BP) -- Christian workers in Paris expressed surprise that a number of native Parisians are appearing more receptive to the Gospel following last week's terrorist tragedy.

"We can sense a sort of stirring in the waters," said a Christian worker in Paris, who noted more interest in spiritual discussions among French locals.

This new openness by Parisians comes on the heels of terrorist attacks targeting the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a secular satirical newspaper famous for its cartoon depictions of Muhammad, and a kosher supermarket. A total of 20 people, including the three gunmen, were killed in the attacks. According to media reports, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has claimed responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo attack.

France is known among many Christians for being a secular state that doesn't care much for religion of any kind. Charlie Hebdo is an example of that secularism, using paper and ink to mock, scrutinize and defame anything considered sacred. With French leaders voicing strong support for Charlie Hebdo -- and its latest issue quickly selling out -- many believers in France have been left uncertain of their own footing.

"They have felt the rejection of religion by their culture -- this is of course not a new phenomenon, but only strengthened throughout the recent events," the Christian worker said. "They fear being viewed as an extremist due to their beliefs, which include attending church regularly and speaking openly about their faith."

However, the Parisians who stopped to discuss spiritual matters with Christian workers and receive a Bible during an outreach effort this week were young adults. And the workers say this gives them hope.

"We pray that an openness to the Gospel will be the description of this upcoming generation," the worker said.

Local believers pray for God to heal France, and they encourage the Christian community to leave vengeance to God.

"Last night at Bible study, I was very encouraged," another Christian worker living in Paris said. "The pastor said, 'The French way is to bond together, but we are not to judge. Leave judgment to God.'"

But not everyone is willing to wait. Mosques have been attacked or vandalized in many areas of France and across Europe in the past week, bringing fear and uncertainty to the Muslim communities.

Some local Muslims are quick to say the terrorists did not represent true Islam, which they describe as a religion of peace. Workers say this has led to new opportunities to share more about Jesus among their Muslim friends.

"We've used this opportunity to explain humanity's relationship with God and continue to teach a message of God's love and plan for peace only through Jesus Christ," one of the workers said.

Christian workers in Paris ask for prayer as they continue to share Christ. Pray for peace in the city. Pray for open hearts among the French and Muslim communities.

To learn more about the current spiritual realities in France and to discover how you can pray, please visit http://imb.org/france.

Nicole Lee is a writer for the London bureau of Baptist Press.
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