At least 20 Christian aid workers have been accused of proselytising and expelled from Morocco in recent weeks.
In principle, Christian groups are allowed to do charitable work in Morocco so long as they don’t try converting Muslims, who make up 98 percent of the population. In practice, hundreds of foreign Christians have been quietly spreading their faith in Morocco for years, says Jean-Luc Blanc, head of the Casablanca-based Evangelical Church of Morocco.
In the past, Mr. Blanc said the government would typically deport one or two missionaries per year whom it judged to have crossed the line. But in his nine years here, Blanc says he hasn’t seen a mass expulsion like this.
The largest incident took place at an orphanage for 33 abandoned children in the Middle Atlas mountains on Monday. Moroccan police showed up in the village of Ain Leuh, located 50 miles south of the ancient city of Fez, and separated orphans from their adoptive parents before telling the volunteers that they were accused of spreading Christianity – a crime in Morocco.Moroccan authorities say there were responding to complaints by people who live near the orphanage who said Christians were targeting children under age 10, and according to the Interior Ministry "exploiting some families' poverty" to proselytize.
Morocco's Communication Minister Khalid Naciri says the deportations are about disrespecting Moroccan law, not about religion.
Naciri says this is not an act against Christians. It is an act against people who are breaking the law. Naciri says Moroccan law deals severely with anyone who violates rules protecting religious behavior, and the government is equally severe with Muslim extremists.
photo: Christian Science Monitor