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French skepticism of evangelical Christians, if not downright hostility, is fueled by myriad factors, from suspicions that churches are tainted by American influence to fears they provide platforms for bogus pastors. Even evangelical leaders warn that African-style prosperity churches, which emphasize financial success, are flourishing around Paris.

“There’s a huge increase in these large churches in the poorest areas,” said Majagira Bulangalire, president of the Community of Churches of African Expression in France, a network partly created to fight against scam churches.

“They’re the biggest swindlers. They can cause a lot of harm to the poor population that flocks to them.”

Wariness of evangelicals also lingers in the French government, which has a special interministerial committee to fight questionable sects of all types.

In some areas, evangelical preachers say they have a hard time getting permits to build new houses of worship, a complaint shared by their Muslim counterparts.

In the Paris suburb of Montreuil, suspicions flared into a full-blown confrontation two years ago, when the town’s Socialist mayor closed services one Sunday at several evangelical immigrant churches.

Relationships between churches and local officials are better elsewhere. In Ivry, the Castanou brothers say Impact is now an accepted town fixture.

Moreover, the churches are increasingly gaining acceptance from another quarter — mainstream Christian churches, which are adopting some evangelical trappings.

“For many years, the French Protestant movement was a bit scornful of the evangelical movement,” said Jean-Arnold de Clermont, head of the French Protestant Federation. “We thought their theology wasn’t very solid, that we were more intelligent. Now, we realize these evangelical churches not only have intellectuals, but they’re more emotive, more spiritual. It’s in our interest to learn from each other.”