Given its history of empire and mission, France not surprisingly has an immigrant Christian presence, among Protestants as well as Catholics. The nation has around 1.1 million Protestants, just 2.2 percent of the population, but that figure includes the most active and enthusiastic charismatics, many of global South origins. Two-thirds of the country's Protestants are Reformed or Lutheran, old-stock churches with deep historic roots: John Calvin was himself a Frenchman. In recent years, though, the fastest growing segment of Christianity has been evangelical and charismatic, and since 1950, their numbers have swelled from 50,000 to around 400,000. This is chiefly the result of immigration from Francophone Africa, but newcomers from Asia and the French Caribbean, les Antilles, have also contributed. Christians are especially numerous among the wave of African immigrants who have arrived over the last fifteen years and who have given such an African feel to sections like Château Rouge, in Paris's 18th arrondissement. The fervor of France's black Christians is difficult to miss. In the words of one native French pastor, "I take the train in from the suburbs every day, and I have plenty of stories of Caribbean or African preachers—men and women—getting up to preach or sing or testify to their neighbors."10
The earliest African churches were branches of the European Protestant communities that had sent out missions and now found themselves welcoming these distant brethren on their own soil. Such for example were the Cameroonian Presbyterians, Madagascarian Reformed and Lutherans, Ivoirien Methodists, Congolese Evangelicals, and so on. From the 1980s, though, distinctively African churches spread, especially among Congolese migrants. (Though the Congo/Zaire was a Belgian possession until 1960, knowledge of the French language made France an attractive destination for its citizens.) The Congo experienced a charismatic revival during the 1980s and 1990s, and the wars and political catastrophes of these years drove many believers into exile. The first diaspora churches were formed in 1983-1984, and since then, the Congolese have rivaled the Nigerians in their church-building zeal. By 2003, Europe's largest Congolese churches included the Belgian-based New Jerusalem, with 1,300 members, and 900 attend Sunday worship at Paris's AFPC (Assemblée des Fidèles aux Prières Chrétiennes), founded by pastor Félix Simakala. France today has a series of ethnic church federations, representing for instance the Madagascarian and Haitian communities. The Congolese-initiated CEAF (Communauté des Églises d'Expressions Africaines de France) claims thirty-five congregations across France.11
Greater Paris has 250 ethnic Protestant churches, chiefly black African. Significantly for present debates about ethnicity and religion, many of these are concentrated in the poor sections, the banlieues, which have recently become so notorious for unrest and social deprivation. Although these communities are usually discussed in the context of Muslim immigration, in fact they have a lively Christian presence. Immigrants are concentrated especially in the "93," the postal code of the département of Seine-Saint-Denis. Sixty evangelical churches operate in the 93, including a dozen affiliated with the CEAF, with names like the Good Seed and Gethsemane. We find CEAF churches in communities like St. Denis (four congregations), Pantin, Montreuil, or Aulnay-sous-Bois. The RCCG has a presence in Seine St. Denis, where we also find a Laotian church and a Portuguese congregation of the Assemblies of God.12
Besides the churches appealing chiefly to one ethnic group, many others draw widely on a range of the new communities. One recent journalistic account of a church in an immigrant suburb, the Evangelical Assembly of the Pentecost, found believers chiefly stemming "from French possessions in the Indian Ocean and the Caribbean, from Haiti, and in large numbers from Africa. . . . Most of [the] congregation is black. On my Sunday morning visit, I meet a woman from Gabon whose husband is from Madagascar." Another recent report focused on the Christian and Missionary Alliance church Église Protestante Evangélique, in La Défense, "a progressive business suburb of Paris." When the pastor asked how many among those attending are indigenous, Caucasian French, only ten people raised their hands. Forty are African immigrants—some naturalized, some legal, and some illegal. When he asked them to say the names of their motherlands aloud, they mentioned Gabon, Ivory Coast, Congo, South Africa, Togo, Nigeria. Several are from Asia: Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, China, Japan. Several are from Iran. Two are from Canada; a couple from the States. Some are from Colombia, Brazil, England, Spain.13
But the immigrant phenomenon is not confined to Britain and France. Rome is home to anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000 Filipinos, most of whom are loyal Catholics, not to mention a further 50,000 Latin Americans. Cut off from their homelands and isolated by culture, language, and poverty, they turn for support to churches that follow the customs of their homelands. Journalist Michael Mewshaw notes the overwhelming presence of these extracomunitari:
Every Sunday evening, Chiesa della Nativita di Gesü throbs with the chants and clapping of Congolese Catholics. Two blocks away at Chiesa di San Tommaso Apostolo, Coptic Christians from Ethiopia and Eritrea fill the Via di Parione, with women in flowing robes and the sounds of drums and reed pipes. ... [I]n recent years the music from St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church has become more melodious, not to mention more professional. This parish of Scotsmen has welcomed a contingent of Korean evangelicals, many of whom are in Rome to study music composition and opera.
Roman Catholic groups have recognized the importance of preventing immigrants slipping away from their Catholic roots and have formed special missions to target migrants. In Rome, the Scalabrinian missionary order reaches out to Latin Americans, offering social service functions, supplying food and clothing, but also providing religious services in the familiar languages of their homelands, and using local customs.14 Other host nations have their new Christian stories. Germany has at least 1,100 foreign-language Protestant churches with some 80,000 members. The first AIC appeared in 1974, when the Nigerian Celestial Church of Christ (an Aladura foundation) opened up shop in Munich. By the end of the century, two hundred AICs were recorded: forty in Hamburg, twenty each in Berlin and Frankfurt, perhaps a hundred in the Rhine-Ruhr valley. Germany has its Aladura churches, its Kimban-guists. While African missionaries established some congregations, many grew out of local fellowships and Bible study groups on German soil, such as the All Christian Believers Fellowship founded in Karlsruhe in 1993.15
In some cases—globalization in action!—Africans in Germany formed their own churches, which then set up branches in the mother countries in Africa itself. In 1992, Ghanaian Abraham Bediako founded in Hamburg a Christian Church Outreach Mission, which seems on the way to becoming a denomination in its own right. It has a dozen churches in Germany, and more than sixty in Ghana itself. The church describes itself as "an international, non-denominational multi-racial church and a full-gospel, charismatic faith congregation with branches in Germany, Holland, Great Britain, Spain, United States and Ghana." Particularly evocative is the web page on which the church portrays its European pastors. All the faces are black African, though their places of work include such historic German cities as Dortmund, Frankfurt, Lübeck, Bremen, Kassel, Kiel, and Hannover, as well as Amsterdam, Paris, and Madrid.16
Among other countries, Aladura churches have been active in Switzerland since the 1960s, and the country has its own Federation of African Churches. Denmark now has 140 immigrant churches, up from virtually nothing just twenty years ago. Roman Catholics have benefited especially, in a country in which Catholicism has for centuries represented only a tiny fringe faith. Today, though, immigrants are filling Denmark's few Catholic churches and driving a need for new congregations. In Aarhus, the Frue Kirke (Church of Our Lady) offers masses in Vietnamese, Polish, English, Tamil, and Chaldean, and all are well attended. Fourteen of Denmark's Catholic parishes offer mass in Tamil, eleven in Vietnamese, ten in Polish.
The United States too has its thriving immigrant churches, but these operate in a very different environment from their west European counterparts. While in the United States new groups have added an extra stratum to the existing range of churches, in Europe, they more commonly offer a replacement. As the difference is sometimes expressed, when a Christian church goes out of use in western Europe, it becomes a warehouse, a condo, or a mosque. In the United States, a church that becomes obsolete generally reopens as another church, for a Brazilian or Korean congregation. The stereotype has some truth, but increasingly, global South Christians are also demanding and finding their own space in European cities.17
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