Although long overdue, it didn’t take long before the symbolic Auschwitz trip to March 4 was canceled due to the Covid-19 epidemic. “The decision was made quickly, and well before the confinement”, we say behind the scenes, not without a touch of pride. Proposed by the World Islamic League and the Foundation of Islam of France, this trip was to bring together French representatives of the Jewish, Muslim and Christian religions on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi camps.
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Many interreligious events have been canceled or postponed during the spring, due to confinement: meetings together with Mary for the feast of the Annunciation, but also cross-invitations as part of the Passover, Easter and of Ramadan, which followed one another in April and May.
“I fear that with the interruption of these interreligious events, which are a privileged opportunity to strengthen the bonds between believers, habits are lost and it will be more difficult, then, to restart them”, fears Father Christian Delorme, engaged in Islamic-Christian dialogue in Lyon. All the more so than those concerned believe, digital tools, although they have been in great demand to keep links within the same community, have hardly taken over in the context of interfaith meetings.
In some places, confinement has, however, favored a boom in these meetings, such as in Beauvais (Oise), where a “Solidarity House” has been set up to distribute food parcels to the most disadvantaged for six weeks. In a gymnasium loaned by the city intervened various associations, secular and religious, in an agreement qualified as ’“Exceptional”.
The circumstances also being exceptional, the national representatives of the various cults will have exchanged a lot during the confinement, in particular on the sidelines of the two videoconferences to which the Élysée invited them, on March 23 and April 21. “We have called each other several times between these two meetings, more than usual”, reports François Clavairoly, president of the Protestant Federation of France (FPF) and of the Council of religious leaders in France (CRCF). “There is between us a climate of trust and sharing, linked to the nature of the CRCF (1), which is not a place for decisions but for exchanges and common questioning. “
When should the places of worship be closed? How to organize a religious funeral while respecting health measures? How to stay in touch with the sick, bereaved or lonely faithful? So many questions for which the interreligious exchanges will have been, according to the interested parties, precious. “Rooted in our particular traditions, we carry the same concern, which is to be at the service of those who are entrusted to us”, continues François Clavairoly. “We all find ourselves naked in front of a pandemic which is sweeping away ours: it brings us closer”, adds Father Vincent Feroldi, in charge of relations with Muslims within the Conference of Bishops of France (CEF).
However, these officials refuse to speak of “Front of religions”. “There were informal exchanges but each cult arrived at videoconferences with its perception and experience, and our requests were not necessarily concerted”, observes Carol Saba, communications manager for the Assembly of Orthodox Bishops of France.
Proof of this autonomy of the cults vis-à-vis each other: the toll-free number for spiritual accompaniment for people experiencing confinement, set up at the end of March. After considering a single number, religious leaders finally opted for separate lines, for each worship. “A common number would have meant a kind of syncretism”, considers the Chief Rabbi of France Haïm Korsia.
Tensions around the resumption of ceremonies
The videoconferences with President Macron, in which the Masonic lodges also participated, will have been the occasion to see the arrival of a new interlocutor: the National Council of Evangelicals of France (CNEF). Unaccustomed to contact with non-Christian cults, he deplores, through his director general Clément Diedrichs, that this entry into the picture took place in the context of the implication of the evangelicals in the spread of the epidemic , very publicized (2). “The main support we received came from the Catholic press. The FPF also made an article clarifying things, but for the other religions, there was, to my knowledge, no official communications. “
The rector of the Great Mosque of Lyon Kamel Kabtane also says he has been “Very alone” at a time of confinement, when identity networks violently questioned him on the Internet for having organized a call to Muslim prayer on March 25. “I had just taken this initiative to join that of the Catholic Church, in solidarity with the caregivers, and I was called an Islamist! ” he takes offense, stating that if the reactions have “Slow to come”, he still appreciated the support of various religious leaders in Lyon, in a press release dated April 29.
But it was around the date of resumption of religious ceremonies that the tensions were most salient. If the representatives of religions often refuse to speak of it in terms of “Friction”, preferring to see a ” epiphenomenon », they admit, however, that they have not succeeded in defending a common position on this point.
“Even if I respect the Catholic Church’s request to resume the ceremonies as soon as possible, I admit that I find it difficult to understand it”, says Mohammed Moussaoui, president of the French Council for Muslim Worship (CFCM). Part of the Muslims of France, dissatisfied with being “deprived” of the festival of Eid El Fitr unlike the Jews and Christians for Shavuot and Pentecost, consider themselves “discriminated”.
A position all the less understandable, for Mohammed Moussaoui, than “If things go wrong, we, the cults, would be blamed collectively. ” For him, it is clear: “What people learned from the evangelical gathering in Mulhouse was above all that the virus had left a place of worship. “