France (MNN) — Today is Bastille Day in France, a national holiday with parades and fireworks. But police are on alert for more riots. The government even banned the sale, possession and use of fireworks beginning Sunday and lasting until tomorrow.
Nearly 300 French cities and several Paris neighborhoods have seen violent protests and vandalism in recent weeks.
The spark was lit when 17-year-old boy was killed by police on June 27. Nahel Merzouk, a teenager of North African descent, was shot during a traffic stop. Police say Merzouk drove at the officer who shot him in self-defense.
Protestors argue the tragic incident demonstrates the mistreatment of minorities and refugees in France. Police say it’s an issue of youth delinquency. Many of the protestors and vandals arrested have been youth and teens, with the average age being 17 and some as young as 12.
The continued unrest, although it has slowed some, has deterred many holiday travelers plans during Bastille Day and affected local businesses and ministries.
Krista Biesiadecki with CEF says, “Parents are concerned about sending their children out into our Good News Clubs and other things that were happening for children in these weeks. A lot of cities are also enforcing curfews and asking that parents would just keep their children home, especially when a lot of the violence is starting with young people and teenagers.”
The conflict is complicated, but one thing is certain: Hurting communities in France need the hope of the Gospel. Yet, this can be easier said than done.
“These areas have been previously difficult to reach with the Gospel,” Biesiadecki says. “In those same neighborhoods where there’s a lot of violence and there’s a lot of rioting right now, a lot of the Good News Clubs and CEF ministry to children has not been accepted.”
According to a recent survey by Odoxa, 74% of the French population aged 65 and older claims Christianity (largely Catholic). However, among young people in France under age 25, only 30% identify as Christian. Fewer are actually active in their faith.
“This is really an area of prayer that we can be praying for the children and the young people of France, that they would know and they would have hope in Christ,” says Biesiadecki.
“This is a generation without a lot of hope that [is] growing up without knowing Christ. It’s leading to a lot of violence and a lot of sad situations in their communities.”
Please pray also that God would open new doors for CEF’s Gospel ministry to kids in France.
Header photo courtesy of Joe DeSousa/Unsplash.