A team of French Muslims recently spent the night standing outside their town’s cathedral to symbolically protect it and show solidarity with Christian churchgoers.
When Elyazid Benferhat heard about a deadly attack on Notre-Dame Basilica in Nice at the end of October, he was sickened. Three people had died. He started thinking about what he could do to help.
He talked to a Muslim friend, “and we had this idea,” Benferhat told the Associated Press. “We needed to do something beyond paying homage to the victims. We said, we will protect churches ourselves.”
He and his pal gathered together other young Muslims from among their friend group, as well as through the soccer club Benferhat coaches.
On All Saints’ holiday weekend—in coordination with local police—the group guarded their local church in Lodève on Saturday night and again for Sunday Mass.
The parish reverend, Luis Iniguez, said their symbolic gesture gave him hope in a difficult time.
When a local paper published a photo of churchgoers having their picture taken with their new Muslim guards, Iniguez even hung the image up in 13th-century Saint-Fulcran Cathedral.
As for Benferhat and his group? They say they’d like to make a symbolic act of protection for the cathedral again for Christmas. They think it’d be great if the movement caught on elsewhere, with other towns following in Lodeve’s footsteps.
Whatever Benferhat gets up to next, he told the Associated Press, “it will come from the heart.”