Interfaith service after cemetry desecrations

4th May 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 3 (AFP) - In the wake of the desecration of Jewish and Christian cemeteries in eastern France, Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin on Monday called for an interfaith service later this week to combat religious intolerance.

PARIS, May 3 (AFP) - In the wake of the desecration of Jewish and Christian cemeteries in eastern France, Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin on Monday called for an interfaith service later this week to combat religious intolerance.

"Hatred is the adversary of all democrats, of all those who are humanists," Raffarin said at a ceremony outside Paris marking the European Union's expansion and the 25th anniversary of the death of EU mastermind Jean Monnet.

"Each time that hatred rears its head somewhere, we must react with a fierce intensity," he told European ambassadors from 20 of France's 24 EU partner states gathered for the ceremony.

The ecumenical service was set for Thursday in the eastern town of Colmar, Raffarin announced after a meeting of an interministerial committee on the fight against racism and anti-Semitism.

Set to attend Thursday's service were Dalil Boubakeur, leader of the French Council for the Muslim Faith (CFCM), France's chief rabbi Joseph Sitruk and the archbishop of Strasbourg, Monsignor Joseph Dore.

Raffarin also invited Education Minister Francois Fillon to take part in the service "to highlight the importance that the education ministry and the teaching profession accord to the fight against racism and anti-Semitism".

Last week, vandals scrawled swastikas and sayings glorifying Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler on 127 graves at a Jewish cemetery near the villages of Hattstatt and Herrlisheim, near Colmar and not far from the border with Germany.

On a stone near the cemetery entrance inscribed with a prayer in Hebrew, vandals wrote "Juden raus", a German phrase meaning "Jews out".

Then on Sunday, officials discovered pro-Nazi slogans daubed on more than 20 graves at a Christian cemetery in the village of Niederhaslach, also in eastern France. In the northern city of Amiens, 34 graves were defaced.

The vandalism at the Jewish cemetery provoked indignation across France, and highlighted the country's continuing struggle to stamp out anti-Semitic acts.

Sixty-seven anti-Semitic incidents were reported in France during the first three months of 2004, compared to 42 in the previous quarter, according to figures released Saturday by the interior ministry.

© AFP

Subject: French news

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