In Lyons, France, an impish figure is causing a rift between a conservative Christian group on one side, and the rector of the Catholic Cathedral on the other. According to France 24, a stonemason working on the renovation fashioned a gargoyle after his friend and longtime construction manager Ahmed Benzizine, who is Muslim. The caricature, which doubles as a rain gutter and warning sign to the faithful, is inscribed with the words “God is Great” in both French and Arabic. A spokesman for the church says the symbol is “ecumenical” and he rebuffs the group’s claim that, “in Lyon Muslims take over our churches at their leisure with the complicity of Catholic authorities.”
Islam is the second largest religion in France, and Muslim immigrants experience much difficulty integrating into mainstream society, in no small part because of the rigid notion of what it means to be “French.” It’s encouraging to see the church in France offering even a symbolic gesture of goodwill to a disenfranchised community.