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Muslim Mason Turned to Stone in Lyon
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
Dieu est grand, الله أكبر(“Allahu akbar”)
These words in French and Arabic are inscribed in the stone scroll beneath a gargoyle gracing the exterior of Saint-Jean Cathedral in Lyon, France. Ahmed Benzizine, a Muslim mason who has been working on the church for nearly four decades, is now immortalized in stone with his own winged gargoyle bearing his likeness.
A lone group protests this tribute, but I choose to highlight this AP story on NPR for the age-old gesture honoring a dedicated worker, no matter what his faith, and a story coming out of France showing that human civility and interfaith efforts are taking place:
"For the archdiocese, the gargoyle symbolizes two traditions: honoring artisans in a cathedral’s stone work and embodying the Christian-Islamic dialogue that is part of Lyon’s recent religious history.
In France’s third-largest city, an archdiocese official is devoted to relations with Islam. In 2007, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, the archbishop of Lyon, and a local Muslim leader, Azzedine Gaci, led a pilgrimage to Tibhirine, an Algerian village where seven Trappist monks were executed in 1996 by radical Islamic insurgents.”
Ahmed Benzizine stands in front of his gargoyle on Saint-Jean Cathedral in Lyon, France. (photos: Philippe Desmazes/AFP/Getty Images)