Yesterday’s post discussed Frenchmen who converted from Christianity to Islam.

Today’s entry looks at the much smaller numbers of Muslims who convert to Christianity in France, thanks to a September 25, 2015 article in the newsweekly Marianne, the online versions of which can be read here and here.

The number of Muslims finding new life in Christ is infinitesimal. Conversion is seen by many Muslim communities as apostasy punishable by death. Where death is not involved, persecution — vandalism and shunning — is not unknown. The experience of the Hussain family in Bradford is a sadly enduring example of this. It’s a dangerous and lonely undertaking.

Marianne was able to interview two converts.

‘Meet God in joy’

Ali, whose baptismal name is Jean-Marc, works as a security guard in Paris’s La Defense business district to the west of the city. He is a retired policeman.

Ali-Jean-Marc is married to a Muslim who is aware that their children will be baptised in the near future. However, she is aware of the religious journey her husband has been taking over the past three years. Of this journey, Ali-Jean-Marc says:

It’s been a long road.

He knows that his Muslim colleagues talk behind his back. His younger brother has fallen out with him. But Ali-Jean-Marc doesn’t care:

By baptism I am saved. I am saved, cleansed of my sins. I want to meet God in joy, to die in peace. This is my new life.

He said that, in recent years, he’d become troubled by the lack of a ‘Creator who controlled the universe’, so he started searching the Internet for information on Christianity and the Gospels. What he found surprised him:

‘Love your enemies!’ He shakes his head: ‘It’s good, it’s strong, it’s the opposite of Islam.’ Then he adds, ‘I do not wish to insult Muslims. If they believe in [the power of] stones, I respect that, as long as they don’t throw them at me.’

Another aspect of Islam that bothers him is the inequality between the sexes.

So as not to trouble his wife, he does not discuss religion with her.

After reading the Gospels on the Internet, Ali-Jean-Marc sought more information from a Christian association for Muslim converts, Notre Dame de Kabylie, led by a fellow convert, Moh-Christophe Bilek. (Kabylie is a region in Algeria.)

The organisation’s home page asks for prayers for Moh-Christophe, who had surgery on a heart valve during the summer and is in a special rehabilitation clinic at this time.

Early morning Christian radio programmes

Fortunately, Marianne was able to interview Moh-Christophe well before he had to be rushed to intensive care in June 2015. In the early 1960s, he began listening with fascination to early morning radio programmes on Christianity. He made sure not to turn on the radio before his father left the house at 5:30 a.m. to work in a factory. By 1962, at the tender age of 13, he had fallen ‘in love with Jesus’.

Today, he works not only with Muslims converting to Christianity but also with Christians whose children are fascinated by Islam — and jihad.

He told Marianne of the appeal of Islam for young Christians or those without religion: anti-materialism, utopia through the ummah (Muslim world), dreams of saintliness and finding a point of reference in life.

Moh-Christophe emphasised that, whereas conversion to Islam is done by taking a simple vow in front of two witnesses anywhere, conversion to Christianity — particularly the Catholic Church — involves a good grounding in the Gospels and a long, deep spiritual journey.

Fearful clergy, robust laity

Moh-Christophe deplores the fact that Catholic priests dissuade Muslims from converting:

Priests, more interested in inter-religious dialogue, discourage our conversions. They don’t want to get Muslims’ backs up.

It is estimated by people like Moh-Christophe, sociologists and other researchers into these new converts that 90% lie below the radar for survival. Some move to another community to begin a new life, sometimes changing their names. Others outwardly appear to be Muslim and keep their Christian practice private. Above all, they ensure their relatives abroad never find out about their conversion.

Marianne concluded their investigation by saying that Catholic laity and clergy are at odds about how to handle conversion.

Lay people want an organised programme of open evangelisation: dedicated stalls at local markets (ubiquitous in France) complete with volunteers on hand for discussions, pamphlets and copies of the Catholic catechism.

However, French bishops are very reluctant to go down this route — even though French Protestants are evangelising! As, of course, are Muslims.

Let us pray that Catholic clergy in France wake up soon and find some bottle. (‘Courage’, for my American readers).

After all, Jesus did give us the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20):

19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

We can also pray that Mo-Christophe recovers soon. His people need him.