By Sarah Mac Donald - 02 February, 2016
Courtesy: Independent Catholic News – http://www.indcatholicnews.com
Faith and human rights groups expressed their shock on Monday after French authorities destroyed a mosque and an evangelical church in the ‘jungle’ refugee camp at Calais.
In spite of assurances given earlier not to disturb places of worship, the Prefect ordered in bulldozers which destroyed the flimsy buildings within minutes.
Ben Bano from the Kent-based charity Seeking Sanctuary stated, “The destruction of these places of worship is at odds with the fundamental human right to worship freely according to the beliefs and principles of all those in the jungle.”
“And at a time when many are feeling despair and hopelessness, to deprive them of the ability to gather to pray together is simply not acceptable. We support all the efforts of our partner agencies to challenge this wanton act of destruction.”
The Evangelical Church of the Jungle was built in October at the initiative of Fabien Boinet, pastor of the Evangelical Church of 2 Caps, Calais and his team.
The pastor said he was “extremely disappointed… Our goal was not to impose, but to bring a bit of peace and quiet in this difficult environment. We were asked to remove the cross before the destruction, but symbolically, we refused to show here, it is a church.”
Migrants who lived nearby had been informed by the Prefecture of the impending evacuation of the area, but according to Fabien Boinet, the prefecture had assured them that the church would not be demolished.
“We had a meeting a few weeks ago with the sub-prefect. He told us that the homes of migrants should move, but that places of worship remain,” he said.
The evangelical church was a place of prayer, with the celebration of worship in English and workshops on the Bible, but also a convivial space, Rev Boinet explained.
“It allowed us to bring spiritual support but also human and psychological assistance to migrants. Faith is something essential for them. Already they do not have much, so in addition if we remove them the opportunity to come together to pray.”
“We are not against the authorities, we just want the dignity of these people to be respected, and I believe that the right to exercise his faith is something fundamental.”
The pastor was able to save equipment stored in the church before it was destroyed, but it is not yet known whether the tent will be installed at another camp location.
In the Jungle, where Muslims are the majority, several mosques emerged, as well as an Eritrean Orthodox Church.
The evangelical church was frequented by Eritrean Christians, as well as Ethiopians, Afghans and Iranians.
Rev Boinet said the different faith groups coexist peacefully in the Jungle.
But he said he feared it could become explosive if the authorities keep reducing the space where people are allowed to live.