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BosNewsLife – Pastors and priests were anxiously preparing for another night of riots in France late Wednesday, November 9, after several churches were attacked and one person died in nearly two weeks of violence which has spread from Paris across the country.

The nightly protests against racism and unemployment dropped somewhat in the greater Paris region, where violence had reportedly escalated to the point of shooting at police. But riots continued in other parts of France , officials said.

Ekklesia, a UK-based well-informed theological Christian think-tank, said it has learned that at least two churches and a number of mosques were already impacted by the ongoing unrest. “One church in the town of Sete in the south of France and another in the town of Lens in the north, were attacked over the weekend,” Ekklesia said in a message to BosNewsLife.

“Lens is located in Pas-de-Calais, the French ‘departement’ geographically closest to Britain ,” Ekklesia argued. This, it said, has raised “awareness of the possible further geographical spread of what some argue is growing lawlessness and others interpret as an uprising against social and racial exclusion.”

On Monday, November 7, a man beaten by a youth became the first fatality in the violence, which also resulted in several injuries, hundreds of arrests and thousands of burnt cars.

The clashes, which began after two boys from immigrant families died in an apparent attempt to escape police, have become a stark symbol of France’s failure to integrate its minority communities, most of which live in the bleak suburbs of France’s cities, and where the jobless rate among young people is often two or three times the national average, analysts say.

To control the violence, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin introduced reinforcements for police and curfews not seen here since the Algerian war for independence of 1954-1962.

However “civil liberties groups are concerned that containment should not become a means of repression, something liable to worsen the problem in the long run,” Ekklesia commented.

Religious rights groups have linked the violence to complaints within the immigrant community over unemployment and discrimination. Although the France leadership supports equality, “in practice…those who apply for jobs and have Arab names are five times less likely to get a response compared to those with ‘French’ [names],” Ekklesia stressed.

“The unemployment and homelessness rates among Arabs are three times the national average.” It said anger was also fueled by complaints among Muslims, Jews and Christians that the kind of secularism promoted by the state “is anti-religious rather than neutral…”

Some observers say most rioters Muslims as followers of Islam make up to five million of France ‘s 60 million population. But the French arsonists are a religious story only by default, commented Christianity Today, an influential evangelical publication. “The Qur’an doesn’t ordain setting property, or its owners, on fire.”

Sébastien Fath, who researches evangelicalism at the National Center for Scientific Research at the Sorbonne, told the magazine’s online edition that “radical Islam communities have done their best to stop the violence. Far from nurturing the riots, these Muslims are trying to calm down the youth. … Most of the few ones who shouted Allahu Akbar [God is Great] during the riots are not devout Muslims.”

Rights watchers caution that nationalist and racist groups have been exploiting public concern about the security situation to propagate anti-immigration policies. “Conservative commentators are also dismissing the social justice agenda and are instead blaming the troubles on a ‘victim mentality’ among migrants,” Ekklesia said.

Aziz Senni, a Moroccan-born businessman and author of the book The social escalator is broken, I took the stairs, was disappointed by the response. “What is needed today is political courage, which I have not seen from either the president or the prime minister,” The Financial Times newspaper quoted him as saying.