The widespread media coverage of the protests mounted by Gilets Jaunes in France, mainly in response to proposed tax rises on fuel, are causing heightened anxiety across France and elsewhere in Europe.
Those of us who have the privilege of living and working in France, and who value its distinctive culture and identity, know that protests such as those by Gilets Jaunesare a vital part of France’s democratic history and traditions. Frustration and anger, as well as delight, have always been voiced publicly, and often in the streets. Public protests are nothing new. The fact that most of them happen regularly, without widespread conflict and injury, is a sign of how mature a society France is. We know that these protests are voicing genuine concerns, not least for the socially disadvantaged. The overwhelming majority of demonstrations by Gilets Jaunespose no threat to life and liberty. But there is escalating concern at the degree to which some protests are becoming infiltrated by groups whose intentions are aggressive and divisive. More so when school pupils have become involved in the violence and destruction.
The Archbishop of Paris, Mgr Michel Aupetit, has spoken of French values: how fraternity has an equal place with freedom and equality, appealing for dialogue and the renewal of society. Our Anglican communities in France echo his words. We join our prayers with all our ecumenical partners at this anxious time, when peoples’ safety, and the stability of civil society, is at risk.
In this Advent season, Christians pray that we may be awake and alert, reading the signs of the times with faithfulness and insight, as we joyfully prepare for the birth of the Prince of Peace. We pray for France: its Government, its people, and its future flourishing. As Anglicans, we are ready to do whatever we can, working with all people of goodwill, for the common good of the French nation.
(Archdeacon of France and Monaco)