Some were not interested in losing their power and corrupt privileges. Others preferred to continue their religious life with a “straw God”.
The town of Mialet received 8,000 Protestants who came from across France to recall the “desert assemblies”. The yearly meeting was started more than a century ago.
A small town in the region of the Cévennes mountains (Southern France) is the meeting place for thousands of Protestants and evangelical Christians who celebrate their historical identity every year.
On Sunday 4th September, 8,000 met to recall the persecution of the first French Protestants after the Reformation.
THE MEANING OF “DESERT”
The word ‘Desert’ defines the time between the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1598 - which had granted some rights for Protestant Christians - and the French Revolution in 1789 – which knocked down the absolutist monarchy.
For two centuries, the Huguenots were fiercely persecuted and any Protestant worship and literature was prohibited. Nevertheless, believers continued to meet clandestinely.
Risking their lives, whole families met regularly in the “assemblies of the desert”, in caves and forests, to listen to the Word of God and worship together.
Many of these Huguenot families read their bibles in a family context. Young preachers travelled to Geneva (Switzerland) to learn theology under the protection of Jean Calvin and the Swiss Protestant authorities, and then came back to spread the faith.
A GATHERING TO REFLECT ON THE PROTESTANT IDENTITY
For more than a century, French Protestants gather again in Mialet (Cévennes mountains) to honour the memory of their “spiritual ancestors” and reflect on how the resistance of the Huguenots in the 17th and 18th century inspires their witness an social action nowadays.
One of the conferences this year reflected on how Christians should better engage with refugees.
This yearly meeting takes place in a forest area next to the Desert Museum.