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Religious minorities grouped together geographically

Protestantism comprises 2.1% of the French population and is much felt in regions such as Alsace, Lorraine and Franche-Comté, according to the IFOP survey of 2006. The survey also shows that these regions represent 8.8% of the national population and more than 28% of the protestant population. Protestants are very few in the western and northern regions of the country, especially in Bretagne, Maine, Centre, Bourgogne and Savoie.
The Reformed Churches are well rooted in their historic regions, especially in Bas-Rhin, Territory of Belfort, Drôme, Lot, Gard and Ariège even though Evangelic Churches are emerging in Bretagne and Nord. Almost 15% of Protestants are situated in the Auvergne and Rhône-Alpes regions. They are also present in Ile-de-France and haute-Normandie.
The protestant map of presence confirms, even today, the establishment of what was called the "protestant crescent" stretching from La Rochelle to Drôme including peripheral regions like Ardèche, Haute-Loire, the Cévennes part of Gard, Hérault, the region of Montauban, Deux-Sèvres and Ariège. From this survey, among others, the IFOP draws a conclusion that the sociological and geographical differences between Protestants and Catholics are slowly disappearing.

According to the same IFOP study on establishment of religions in France in France conducted in 2006, there is a high concentration of people who claim to belong to Judaism and Islam in the most urbanised areas. These two religions also have a very low representation in rural areas like Massif Central, Poitou-Charentes, Centre and Champagne-Ardenne. Concerning Islam, this information is confirmed by the 2009 IFOP study, implantation and evolution of Islam in France.

Almost half of the Jews, representing 0.6% of the population, live in the Parisian region. There is also a large community living in Strasbourg. The rest of their population settles mostly in the south of France where big cities like Marseille, Nice, Lyon and Toulouse are home to large communities of Jews. The Jews living in these cities are mostly Sephardic while those living in Alsace and Moselle are Ashkenazic. The Atlantic coastal regions going from Gironde up to Bretagne rank the last as their Jewish population reaches just above the national average. This is undoubtedly due to retired people settling in the coastal towns.

Islam represents 3% of the population and has a strong presence in the regions of Paris, Lyon and Bouches-du-Rhône. It is also present in numerous small towns except in the west of France. This strong presence is due to the migration of North African Arabs who settled in Nord and Haut-Rhin to work in the Peugeot car factories. They are also found in Val-d’Oise which has a Muslim population of 14.3%, Seine-Saint-Denis, Val-de-Marne and the department of Loire where they work the firms. Furthermore, they are rooted in the Parisian Bassin and in regions like Somme, Oise, Seine-Maritime, Eure-et-Loire and Loir-et-Cher. The Mediterranean coast, which is geographically close to North Africa, has also accommodated a massive amount of Arab immigrants thus, the reason why Islam is highly represented in regions such as Hérault, Gard and even more in Bouche-du-Rhône. And once again, immigration is responsible for a high concentration of the Muslim population in border zones, big urban areas and their suburban zones and former industrial and mining areas. In France, the establishment of Islam is well defined. It follows a line from Le Havre, through Valence, going all the way to Perpignan. Muslims are mostly present in the east of this region.

See the 2009 IFOP study, implantation and evolution of Islam in France.

A map of the geographical localisation of places of worship of Evangelical and Muslim denominations in France has been established by the journal La Croix in 2006.

The geographical distribution of religions in France is still today determined by the weight of history, although these differences in territorial distribution are tending to diminish.

D 15 September 2020    AAnne-Laure Zwilling

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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