CAIRO – In a bid to combat extremist ideas, the French city of Lyon has launched an interfaith program that aims to build mutual respect and promote the French concepts of secularism and religious tolerance among the country faith groups.
“If things are going to change, they need to change in all directions,” Michel Younes, co-director of the initiative at Lyon’s Catholic University, told the Washington Post.
“That means not only training imams about secularity, but also civil servants — because the subject of religion in public spaces has almost become a taboo.”
The program comes as hundreds of French youth have reportedly traveled to fight in the conflict zones. It aims to address the soaring number of Islamophobic attacks following Paris attacks last January.Co-organized by two Lyon universities and the city’s Grand Mosque, the national campaign, “Islam a la Francaise”, brings together Muslim and non-Muslim civil servants from all walks of life.
The six-month program is a part of the government’s efforts to combat extremism by reaching out to the vulnerable Muslim youth.
“We need French chaplains and imams. Who learn French, who love France and who adhere to its values,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls said in March.