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Tuesday, 12 October 2010

France: Catholic schools and Muslim students

The number of Muslim students is increasing in these private institutions, where they sometimes are in the majority. AS a result, teachers had been given a handbook of "good conduct".

In a Catholic school, a group of students refuses to go swimming during Ramadan on the pretext that they are likely to swallow water. Citing medical reasons, their parents request a waiver of sporting activities. Discomfort on the side of teachers: those activities give rise to an evaluation that accounts for the baccalaureate. Another place, another scene: a Catholic primary school welcomes more than 200 students. Of these, about 70% are Muslim. However, the headteacher decides to install a crib in the lobby during Advent. A Muslim parent then requires the removal of it, "a Muslim can not hear that Jesus is the Son of God." (NOTE: So, what do you expect? Your son/daughter is in a school where they actually believe that Jesus is the Son of God!).

Catholic schools do not always know what attitude to adopt towards Islam. Particularly since they are increasingly confronted with an increased number of Muslim students in recent years. They have even become the majority in some schools, particularly in Villeurbanne (Rhône), Marseille and Mantes-la-Jolie (Yvelines). A recent phenomenon which has decided to address the General Secretariat of Catholic Education (SGEC) in partnership with the Department for Relations with Islam (SRI) of the Conference of Bishops. For two years, heads of institutions and experts have worked on this issue. Result: a file entitled "Muslims in Catholic schools" and instructed to provide practical guidance and theoretical tools for teachers.

Why some parents today push Muslims to turn to Catholic schools? The law, of course. It authorizes them since 1959, because no Catholic institution under contract can not refuse a student because of his religion. "They also believe that in this type of establishment, at least we talk about God to young people". "Others also see a good level of education for their children", explains Pierre Robitaille, the leader of the working group on Muslims in Catholic school for SGEC. Among the top fifty colleges of Figaro Awards 2010 are shown for 80% of private schools, even though they represent only 20% of the general. Besides the private is a good way to bypass the 2004 law on religious signs in schools since it applies only to the public.

In the dossier, sixteen fact sheets are made available to teachers to enable them to better understand Islam and to understand its mechanisms, "Islamic Basic Vocabulary," "Festivals and events in Islam," "Place of the traditional Women in Muslim society", or "The Islamic veil". In addition, the report addresses fourteen cases already encountered in concrete schools and makes "for thought and action"." Because the challenge of Catholic education here is to achieve to remain open to all without denying itself. "The faith must express itself, but it does not seek to proselytize as much, warns Pierre Robitaille. However, teachers must also be careful to avoid certain situations from becoming unmanageable. For example, a school manager offered Muslim students a room to pray, so they avoid getting wet by rain in the courtyard of the school. They have turned it into a prayer room and invite some people outside the school to pray with them. Since then, the Director can no longer use this piece for other activities.

"The idea is that students of other faiths rather practice their religion outside of school, with exemptions for boarding. In the latter, you can make available some rooms for young people to pray, but they should not turn into a room dedicated to prayer, said the convenor of the Working Group on "Muslims in schools". "We have a mission church. We are not a self religions! ".


(Translation: T&P).

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