A crackdown on Christians in the long-thought “moderate” Islamic nation of Morocco is ramping up, with eyewitnesses reporting more believers being expelled from the nation and at least several being held in jail overnight.
A witness to the crackdown, identified as Brother D, told WND yesterday that believers were being detained in several cities and some of them had spent overnight in jails. Further, another family had been ejected from the country.
“Two or three are clergy to expatriate communities, some are businessmen, teachers, professors and some are part of charitable organizations to help the poor and/or the handicapped,” said the aid worker.
He reported he’s been in Morocco for five years, and a family with whom he works has been in the nation for 10 years.
Jack Wald, a pastor at Rabat International Church, told the Christian Post Christians around the country were summoned by police, questioned, sometimes held overnight, and than many were ordered out of the country.
Coincidentally, several statements were published on a Rabat-based news website at the same time the expulsions were taking place. One quoted “representatives of monotheistic religions” in the nation lauding the kingdom for its “tolerance, peace and religious freedom.”
“Representatives of churches and Chief Rabbi Joseph Israel extended their gratitude to HM king Mohammed VI, Commander of the Faithful, and the kingdom of Morocco where they live in peace and enjoy religious freedom, Interior minister Taib Cherkaoui said following a meeting with the men of religion,” said the report.
The website also published a statement attributed to the U.S. State Department saying, “The government [of Morocco] continued to encourage tolerance and respect among religions.”
Brother D had reported to WND, “We work as extensions of our local churches back in the states and are not part of a missionary group or board.”
Christian work has been ongoing in Morocco for nearly 100 years, a nation under Islamic influences for more than 1,000 years.
According to a report from Mission Network News, the deportation move actually has been building for several weeks.
In the report, Todd Nettleton of Voice of the Martyrs said Morocco’s new minister of justice, Mohamed Naciri, is believed to be responsible for the crackdown.
“It’s unclear if simply this new minister of justice is a more devout or more radical Muslim and wants to come against the apostasy movement, encouraging Muslims to leave Islam and follow Jesus Christ and we just don’t know that much about the why right now,” he told MNN.
A separate report from an organization called Village of Hope confirmed that all 20 foreigners who have been working to provide for otherwise abandoned children there have been ordered to leave Morocco.
Brother D reported that the procedures for the removals appear to be “strong arm tactics that are contrary to their own laws.”
For example, he said government documents confirm that if a visa is revoked or not renewed, the person will have 15 days to leave the country. But actually the Christians are given only hours or more.
“I think this is shameful for Moroccans to enjoy complete religious freedom in the U.S. and Europe and giving none to foreigners,” he said. “We have no rights to build churches or share our faith. If Europe or America started kicking out Muslims, and their religious leaders, for no reason other than religion the Moroccan (and Muslim) world would be furious,” he told WND.
He estimated that there may be in the range of 500 to 1,000 foreign Christians in the nation, with possibly another 1,500-3,000 Moroccans who are Christian.
“This number may be much higher but many groups meet in secret and don’t share their information even with other Christian groups,” he said.
The aid worker said it was just a few weeks ago when Christians started getting summonses from police in the nation that previously had been considered fairly moderate.
“Two of our (Christian) brothers were taken in different times by the police for a compulsory interview,” he reported. “They were asking about people gathering regularly and (asking) especially for the foreigners attending the meetings. They had pictures of the whole group including us and … they pointed to our faces in the pictures asking for information about us.”
Already, workers in Tangier, Casablanca, Essaouira, Rabat, El Jadida, Nador and Fez have been impacted, reports said.
“All were fairly high-profile ‘targets’ (church-planting team leaders), with longtime presence and language skills,” Brother D reported. “In one case also a physical therapist was deported.”
“They were given four hours to exit,” he said.
Morocco has been dominated by Islamic interests since the 600s, when Arab Muslims moved into the region. In 711, the Berber chief, Tariq Iban Zyad, arrived in conquest of the area. Shortly later, Muslim control was consolidated.
The constitution provides for a monarchy with a Parliament and an independent judiciary.
The embassy website boasts that King Mohammed VI is directly descended from the prophet of Islam, Muhammad, through his daughter Lalla Fatima Zohra.