'Submit to Allah': French villagers horrified by vandalism of 58 graves, church with Islamist slogans

Defaced Catholic church building in Lieusaint, France.
Defaced Catholic church building in Lieusaint, France. | AmauryBucco/Twitter

Villagers at a cemetery in Dordogne Department in southwest France were horrified that vandals painted Islamist slogans in French and Arabic on 58 graves, a church door, a World War I memorial and tomb art depicting the crucifixion.  

The defacement happened overnight in Clermont d’Excideuil between March 10 and March 11. 

A local church building near the cemetery had “Ramadan Mubarak” (“Blessed Ramadan”) daubed on its doors. Slogans within the cemetery included, “Submit yourselves to Allah,” “Happy Ramadan non-Muslims” and “Koufars,” meaning “unbelievers.” One of the grave slogans read, “France is already Allah’s,” according to British newspaper the Daily Mail.

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Clermont d’Excideuil Mayor Claude Eymery discovered the vandalism on the morning of March 11 and contacted police. He told FranceInfo that he thought such incidents “only happened elsewhere.” 

Préfet de la Dordogne, the French state’s regional representative, wrote on X, “The prefect strongly condemns the new act of vandalism committed at the Clermont-d’Excideuil cemetery. A gendarmerie investigation continues under the authority of the Périgueux public prosecutor’s office, which has opened an investigation into aggravated damage.”

Jeanne Cumet, a spokesperson for S.O.S Calvaires, an association that preserves, repairs and maintains French chapels, calvaries, oratories and fountains, said the vandalism was “very serious.” 

“Christian cemeteries have been tagged with satanist or other messages, for example. But I’ve never heard of a Christian cemetery being tagged with Islamic references,” Cumet told Christian Daily International. “Jewish cemeteries, for example, are more frequently vandalized, but this kind of tagging in the Dordogne — as far as I’m concerned, it hasn’t happened for a long time, if ever.”

Volunteers from S.O.S. Calvaires, which often works in cemeteries, immediately came forward to help with clean-up following a request by police. Cumet said police officers took photos and samples and asked the association to clean off the markings quickly. They restored the site within a week. 

“Vandalism of graves are very serious and show a total lack of respect for those who lie there,” Cumet said. “It’s the same disrespect shown to our heroes of the First World War and, of course, to the church. We cannot understand what happened in these people’s minds, to show such hatred towards Christians.”

The vandals mainly targeted the Catholicism, she said.

“The weirdo could have tagged the walls of the town hall, the post office or the school, but he or she chose Christian symbols,” she said.

Cumet added that local villagers, numbering about 240, were shocked.

“Just imagine waking up in your little and peaceful village to go out and discover all of this,” she said. “Sadness, astonishment and indignation were in all the people’s hearts that morning.”

Police launched an investigation into the vandalism, but Cumet said no culprits have been caught. 

The vandalism was not an isolated case. In Marseille on June 28, churchgoers were upset to discover Islamists had wrecked Philadelphia Evangelical Protestant Church. They damaged a prayer room, broke doors and windows and painted slogans, including, “The last prophet is Muhammad” and “Jesus is not God.”

France has seen a rise in anti-Christian hate crimes with Islamist motives in recent years, according to Anja Hoffmann, executive director of the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians in Europe (OIDACE). She said similar graffiti was recently found in the Dordogne region, including, “Today this is the land of gwer [infidels]. Tomorrow this will be the land of Islam.”

“All these slogans express a claim of superiority of Islam and the targeting of Christians as ‘unbelievers’ or ‘infidels,’ which is common in Islamist extremism,” Hoffman told Christian Daily International. “It seems worrying that the country’s secularist elite, and especially left-wing intellectuals, do not want to acknowledge this dimension of the aggression.”

The reactions of local residents to the cemetery vandalism showed how traumatic such acts can be for a religious community, she said. French politicians need to take further measures to protect Christian communities in the country, she added. 

“Although France has increased its budget for the protection of places of worship due to frequent attacks, politicians also need to take measures to address this inter-religious dimension of anti-Christian hate crimes,” Hoffmann said.

In March 2022, French MEP Jean-Paul Garraud challenged the European Commission to address a surge in anti-Christian hate crime in France and other parts of Europe. He asked why there was no coordinator or strategy planned to combat Christophobia. The commission had appointed a coordinator to combat antisemitism in 2015 and another to combat anti-Muslim hatred in 2018. 

Věra Jourová, vice-president of the European Commission, confirmed no coordinator was planned for Christophobia. 

“The commission is committed to protect Christians and members of other religious groups from persecution within the EU and does not make any distinction between religious groups,” Jourová reportedly said. “The commission has no plans as regards a specific strategy on Christophobia or to appoint a dedicated coordinator on this issue.”

Christian Daily International provides biblical, factual and personal news, stories and perspectives from every region, focusing on religious freedom, holistic mission and other issues relevant for the global Church today.

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