Graves desecrated often in France, mostly Christian

Thu Dec 11, 2008 10:26am EST
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By Emile Picy

PARIS (Reuters) - Vandals desecrate cemeteries on an average of about every three days in France, with most attacks against Christian graves although media mostly report cases against Jewish and Muslim tombs, a report said Thursday.

Most desecrations are vandalism by teenagers, with only a small minority prompted by the racism, anti-Semitism or satanic cult practices normally highlighted in the media, the report by parliamentarians of the governing UMP party said.

Among preventative measures the report proposed was more teaching in school about respect for the dead, a concept it said was fading in France as killing in films has become common but few young people attend funerals or visit cemeteries anymore.

"Desecrations of graves occur about every three days in France, which means it is not a marginal phenomenon," said Frederic Poisson, one of the two deputies who wrote the report.

Racist, anti-religious or satanic motives accounted for about 20 percent of the cases, he said. "The rest are mindless delinquence, without any apparent motives, by people who imitate or go along with others because of psychological weaknesses."

In the latest case, about 500 tombstones in the Muslim part of a World War One military cemetery near Arras in northern France were sprayed with Nazi symbols last weekend, the third such attack in less than two years.

About 15 Jewish tombstones nearby were also targeted.

The report cited 144 attacks last year and 110 in the first eight months of 2008. Most were committed by teenagers, often after drinking alcohol, it said.   Continued...

<p>A French gendarme looks for clues next to Muslim graves desecrated with Nazi inscriptions and swastikas in Notre Dame de Lorette cemetery in Ablain Saint Nazaire, northern France, December 8, 2008. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol</p>