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Bill Jones discusses Paris attacks and French response

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Most of us have already heard of the attacks on Paris by the terror organization ISIS. But for most of us, it was simply a tragedy that happened halfway across the world. For Bill Jones, however, it was a bit more close to home. Jones and his wife Debbie are World Partners missionaries-in-residence here at Bethel. They disciple one-on-one and lead small groups in training students for cross-cultural missions. They also lived and ministered in France for 15 years, from 1983 to 1998. Jones is fluent in French and still has people he knows in Paris. Jones first heard about the attacks via a radio report while driving home the afternoon of Friday, November 13, the day of the attacks. “I was not surprised,” he said, “because a little over a month or two ago, there had been an attempt made by a terrorist to kill a number of people on a train. And that had been stopped by three Americans who were there.” A man, armed with an AK-47 and a pistol, along with several magazines of ammo, had boarded the train going from Belgium to Paris. “His intention was to kill everybody on the train, and the Americans stopped him,” said Jones. “So (the Paris attacks were) not a surprise, I think we’re going to see more of this type of thing happen, not only in France, but also even here in the U.S.” He later commented further on why he didn’t find the attacks surprising. “This really should not be a surprise to anybody,” he said. “Because this type of thing is going on in Nigeria, it’s going on in Indonesia, it has gone on over the years in Spain…(in) France there have been attempts…we’ve seen it here in America. We have a group of people in ISIS that want to kill Jews, they want to kill Americans, and they want to kill (the) French because they’re a part of what’s happening to fight against them. If Germany becomes involved, they’ll want to kill Germans. They want to kill basically anybody who does not have their particular doctrine or way of viewing the world. So it’s nothing new, I mean, it’s going on. The thing that has a certain shock factor for people is the number of people that were killed. But they will do their best to kill more.” Jones has a satellite dish, and thus is able to pick up the French news directly from the country. He watched much of the Friday night and Sunday news from the country as events unfolded. His grasp on the French mindset is something that we here on U.S. soil don’t get to see very much. Jones talked a bit about the likely French reaction to the attacks. “For the French, this is quite shocking, and yet, at the same time, the French can be a very determined people, and I sense that in their response,” he said. “I sense that in the response of the government, I sense that as a response (from) them as a people. They see this as an act of war, and they are ready to declare war upon ISIS.” A special meeting of the French government was called immediately following the attacks. France declared martial law and shut their borders. They also increased their bombing raids of Syria against ISIS. “They’re going to want to do more than bombing raids,” Jones said. “They want to form a global coalition that will actually go in, probably with boots on the ground, and deal with ISIS…They want to react, and they want to do something to deal with this.” France may end up being the lead nation in this coalition, should it come to be. With the Syrian refugee crisis spreading across Europe, a border shutdown is a major decision. Several EU nations, such as Croatia and Hungary, along with potential member nation Serbia, have already closed their borders due simply to the refugee crisis, not the Paris attacks. “Even (November 16), in the big assembly that they had, (France was) talking about keeping the borders closed,” said Jones. The coalition of nations is still a discussion point, but Jones thinks that the U.S. should at least seriously consider being a part of it. “I think that we need to work with France,” he said, “and as France has said that they would like to form a global coalition, I think that we should be a part of a global coalition to deal with this…Because, if we don’t do something, we’re going to see that type of thing occur here in the U.S.” I also talked with Jones briefly about France’s history with Islam as a religion. He said that, while Catholicism is still the dominant religion, close to 11 percent of the French population is Muslim. Many of those come from North African nations such as Morocco or Tunisia. He said, “They came into the country after the Second World War to help rebuild France after the war, and (they) ended up staying within France.” The Islamic population of France isn’t staying static, however. He chuckled a bit as he said, “They’re being very fruitful and multiplying in the sense that, I think the typical Islamic family has multiple children, anywhere between six, seven, eight (or) nine, and the typical French family has less than two…so as a result, it’s a growing population, primarily due to just natural birth.” Jones also said that it’s been estimated that France will become a majority Islamic somewhere between the years 2030 and 2050. The government of France has actually tried to build mosques for the Islamic population to worship in. “The French government has tried to accommodate Islam and make them a part of the nation,” said Jones. “The problem has been, many of the Muslims do not want to integrate as fully French.” Many Muslims that live in Paris live in conclaves within the city, where they have their own Islamic community. These communities are filled with Islamic businesses, and residents abide by the Sharia law of Islam. “There are some places… in Paris where the French police won’t even go into town,” said Jones, comparing these small communities to the Islamic communities in Detroit. “So as a result, you’ve got a lack of integration…and there are French people who resent that, who struggle with that, who see their unwillingness to integrate within French society,” he went on. Jones also said that France has been, like America, a “melting pot” of various nations coming together into one. But in the midst of that melting pot, there is this separation of Muslim communities from the rest of the country. Jones did comment a bit on the aforementioned refugee situation as well. “These Syrian refugees that are coming out of Syria, primarily because of the war between the existing government and ISIS and the rebels that are there, (have) created a big refugee influx into Europe,” he said, “and in some respects it’s kind of overwhelming the countries that are there, but it’s a humanitarian need, so what do you do? How do you help these people? Especially when you realize that among them, there are probably terrorists, so if you close your borders to them, you’re closing your borders to refugees.” I also asked if he felt the attacks could have been prevented. “Yes, with a more stringent policy,” said Jones. Jones stated that France has over 10,000 terrorist suspects on file that are currently living in France. Many of those were deported over the weekend following the attack. “With a more stringent screening process and perhaps a more stringent policy that if anybody begins to involve themselves in this type of doctrine, or this type of association, that they’re simply (deported),” said Jones. “They’re not allowed to stay within the country. And you may end up (deporting) individuals that would never become terrorists, but at the same time, you take the chance of leaving in the country those who will.” Finally, I talked with Jones about what we as students can do right now. Jones said, “I think number one, become aware of what’s going on, listen to the news and study the subject. Find out what’s happening and what has been done (and) what could be done. Obviously, we could be praying for our leaders to have wisdom in their decision making. There’s some very difficult choices that have to be made.” One of those choices is again, how to handle the influx of Syrian refugees. “I think we need to figure out how do we handle the refugee crisis,” he said. “Is there a better place for these refugees to go, for example in the Middle East, where they can be cared for, rather than them all just flooding into Europe?” Jones concluded by saying, “I think we need to be aware of what’s happening in the news so we can pray intelligently.”

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