Rabat - Recently more Moroccans have come out as Christians, preaching for their faith and calling for their rights to be recognized.
Rabat – Recently more Moroccans have come out as Christians, preaching for their faith and calling for their rights to be recognized.
In an article published by the Agence France-Presse (AFP), a group of Moroccan Christians spoke about their experiences as converts and outlined their demands as a religious minority.
Moroccan and Christian
“I am Moroccan before I am a Christian”, said Rachid, a Moroccan Christian pastor.
Rachid receives Moroccans converted to Christianity in his apartment in Ait Melloul near the city of Agadir, South Morocco.
Along with another pastor, Mustapha, he leads the afternoon prayers where he preaches the word of God.
Making his conversion in 2004, Rachid said he took interest in Christianity while still a teenager.
Through the internet he got in touch with a preaching website from which he received a Bible.
“I read it fully, and then I studied it and took part in trainings. At the age 24 I was baptized in an apartment in Casablanca,” said Rachid.
Mustapha’s conversion happened much earlier. In 1994 he turned to Christianity to “fill a spiritual void.” The 46 years old pastor revealed he had been a member of the Islamist “Justice and Charity” movement.
“I got weary of the contradictions of Islam. I got interested in Christianity and started exchanging messages with a religious center in Spain. Then, I made my decision and converted,” said Mustapha. He too became a pastor thanks to a course by correspondence with a US Christian institution.
Becoming a Christian in a Muslim majority country is a difficult choice, and converts must face the reactions of their relatives and friends.
Mustapha explained he had to hide his faith for a long time before he came out in a video uploaded on the internet.
“Members of my family turned their back on me. At work, I was sidelined. My children got harassed at school,” he said.
Aspiring to lead a public religious life like the Muslim majority of the kingdom, Moroccan Christians have recently united in a representative body and began a dialogue with the National Council of Human Rights (CNDH).
“We are asking for the right to give our children Christian names, worship in churches, be buried in Christian cemeteries and marry according to our religion,” said Mustapha who acts as the body’s spokesperson.
While Morocco hasn’t released official statistics about its Christian population, according to the US State Department, there are between 2000 and 6000 converts living in the kingdom.
Morocco enjoys an international image as promoting tolerance and inter-faith dialogue. Judaism is hailed as an integral part of Morocco’s history and culture and a component of the national identity, but converting to Christianity is often looked upon unfavorably by Moroccans.
The kingdom is thus faced with its internal dilemma when it comes to the thorny issue of Moroccan Christians.
But, As Rachid observed, Moroccan authorities are showing more tolerance to Christians. “Past arrests ceased. This is a step forward. Harassment cases are fewer and fewer.”
Moroccan society remains resistant however to accepting the fact that some of its members are choosing a religion other than Islam.