LANNEMEZAN, France (ChurchMilitant) - Two young men have admitted to desecrating scores of graves in a French cemetery earlier this month, explaining the deed as a bargain with the Devil.
The men, both in their early 20s, confessed to the crime shortly after their arrest Aug. 18. One perpetrator, a migrant from Cameroon named Fabien, said he vandalized the cemetery in Lannemezan as an offering to Satan to succeed in a musical career, according to La République des Pyrénées. The other, named Jordan, tried to downplay his involvement but was accused by his partner of participating in incantations to summon the Devil.
Fabien said he was advised by a Muslim teacher or guide, called a marabout, in Mali to make the incantations at 1 a.m. in a cemetery in order to make contact with Satan and advance his musical goals, according to Observatory of Christianophobia, a group that catalogues anti-Christian attacks in Europe.
"[R]emove what represents God and replace him with 666," the marabout directed the migrant. "Make offerings to [the] being opposed to God."
Reportedly after the incantations, the duo proceeded to destroy over 60 gravesites, targeting many crosses. The total damage to the cemetery is estimated at 30,000 euros, or around $35,000.
In court on Thursday, Fabien "dumbfounded" those in attendance by saying his gesture has "nothing to do with Catholic people" and "it was not [intended] to cause harm" but rather to invoke Satan so he could become famous, according to La République des Pyrénées.
The attack on the cemetery represents the latest act of ongoing anti-Christian vandalism and violence in France, which sees an estimated three anti-Christian attacks per day, according to a report released last year by the Central Criminal Intelligence Service (SCRC) of the gendarmerie.
The list of anti-Catholic attacks on churches and holy locations in France recorded by the Observatory of Christianophobia for just the past month includes:
The trend shows no signs of abating. More than 1,000 anti-Christian attacks occurred in France in 2019, according to data compiled by Daniel Hamiche, editor-in-chief of Observatory of Christianophobia.
Analysts have put forth various explanations for the church attacks, stunning not only in number but in quality of desecration.
The Washington Post (WaPo), for one, published an article just days before Notre-Dame was set afire, speculating about the forces behind the attacks. Its authors speculated that youngsters carry out the "pranks" and are "tempted to deface a local church used mostly by older people in their town." Homeless people setting old clothes on fire might have caused the March 2019 blaze of Saint-Sulpice church, they reasoned. Thieves also made it into WaPo's list of causes.
But Miviludes, a French government agency that monitors groups judged to threaten public safety, warned more than 10 years ago against satanists attacking cemeteries and promoting "acts of barbarians."
And the WaPo authors reason that although the number of satanists is small, what they represent — "hostility to religion, rejection of institutions and a glorification of strength over the perceived weakness of Christians" — feeds into — and is fed by — "broader attitudes in French society."
Lannemezan prosecutors are seeking a prison term of 18 months for Fabien and 12 months for Jordan. A statement of Fabien representing his position was read in court, and it indicated he could not rule out reoffending.