• France's news in English

Panic as French pilgrims mistaken for jihadists

The Local · 17 Jul 2015, 13:36

Published: 17 Jul 2015 13:36 GMT+02:00
Updated: 17 Jul 2015 13:36 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Ever since April’s foiled terror attack on a church near Paris fears have grown that jihadists would target France’s Christian places of worship.

That fear was evident earlier this month when three pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela in north western Spain were mistaken for Islamic radicals by worried churchgoers.

According to a report in local news site Lyon Capitale.fr the three pilgrims popped into a church on the town of Anse, north of Lyon, to enjoy a “spiritual rest”.

But on that day a wedding was being celebrated in the church and the three pilgrims apparently decided to hang around and watch the service.

That raised a few concerns among members of the wedding party, some of whom were panicked enough to call in the police.

The confusion and panic appears to have stemmed from the pilgrims' choice of clothes. Rather than wearing the traditional hiking attire they were “dressed as apostles”, or in other words they were wearing cassocks.

It appears some presumed the pilgrims were wearing the traditional Muslim dress - the djellaba - and presumed the fact they were in church meant they must be Islamic radicals planning an attack.

The reality was of course very different.

“The individuals were not at all aggressive, quite the contrary,” a policeman told LyonCapitale.fr. “They said they were dressed as apostles and were making their way to Santiago de Compostela.

In the end the marriage went ahead as planned and the pilgrims were allowed to go on their way in peace.

Story continues below…

Nevertheless the incident does highlight how the French public are on edge over the threat of terrorist attacks.

Following a student’s botched attempt to gun down churchgoers in April the French PM Manuel Valls reiterated government warnings that the country was facing an "unprecedented terrorist threat" and said that 178 Catholic places of worship had already been placed "under specific protection".

He said also said authorities were mulling how to protect other places of Christian worship.

"Protection of religious sites will be guaranteed, said Valls on Thursday. "Christians and Catholics in France were targeted. They must be able to go to mass in perfect peace." 

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
17 different ways to talk about sex in French
Photo: Helga Weber/Flickr

Fancy a quick run with the one-legged man?

Yikes! This is what a rat-infested French jail looks like
Photo: YouTube/France Bleu TV.

This video is not for sufferers of ratophobia (or musophobia as the condition is officially called).

France to allow Baby Jesus in Town Halls this Christmas
Photo: AFP

Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus are safe to go on display again this year, it seems.

National Front posts locations of migrants in French town
The National Front courts controversy. Photo: AFP

"Local tax payers have a right to know," says local far-right party chief.

Paris thieves use tear gas to steal €500,000 of watches
Photo: AFP

The thieves pretended to be couriers then threatened staff with tear gas to get the watches.

Bataclan survivor recounts attack in chilling drawings
Photo: BFMTV screengrab

One survivor has recounted the horrific night through illustrations.

Anger among French police grows as Hollande vows talks
French police demonstrate on the Champs Elysées. Photo: AFP

A fourth night of protests shows government efforts to ease anger among French police have been fruitless.

UK border must move back, says 'next French president'
Photo: AFP

If favourite Alain Juppé is elected, Britain and France are in for some difficult negotiations.

Homeless man does a runner from France's top restaurants
Photo: Prayitno/Flickr

"A man's gotta eat," he told police, after racking up gigantic bills in some of France's plushest restaurants.

Underwater museum hopes to make a splash in Marseille
A similar underwater museum piece by Jason deCaires Taylor. Photo: julie rohloff/Flickr

Don't forget your scuba gear...

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
The ups and downs of being both French and English
How Brexit vote has changed life for expats in France
Twelve French insults we'd love to have in English
What's on in France: Ten of the best events in October
jobs available