Muslims and Christians in French Town Pray Old Bonds Survive Priest’s Murder

french muslims

ST.-ÉTIENNE-DU-ROUVRAY, France — It was the first time since a childhood school trip that Anissa Latroche had set foot in a church.

 Ms. Latroche, a sociology student who is Muslim, came to Mass in the Rouen Cathedral on Sunday to pay tribute to the Rev. Jacques Hamel, the priest who was killed last week by two young men acting in the name of the Islamic State.

“They welcomed us very nicely, me and my friend,” said Ms. Latroche, who was wearing a pale blue veil as she entered the church with a mixture of respect and shyness.

 She said she was shocked about what had happened to the priest, and even more so by the age of one of the killers, Adel Kermiche: 19, just like her.

“I have not even started my life yet, and he basically ruined his and so many others’,” Ms. Latroche said. “I don’t get it.”

In the wake of Father Hamel’s murder, Muslim and Christian communities around France came together over the weekend to show solidarity by attending each other’s religious services, in churches and mosques alike.

 But the services in Rouen, and in St.-Étienne-du-Rouvray, a nearby suburb where Father Hamel was killed, took on a special resonance.

For people in this part of Normandy, the exchange served as a reminder that long before Father Hamel was killed, he and many others from both faiths had worked together to build bonds. In fact, the only mosque in St.-Étienne-du-Rouvray was built on land adjacent to one of the town’s churches after the church sold it for a symbolic price of one euro.


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