Morocco (VCM/MNN) — International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Morocco's Islamic council is considering the death penalty for apostasy.
According to their report, the Supreme Ulema Council published a fatwa this week calling for the death penalty for Muslims who abandon their religion. Greg Musselman is a spokesman for the Voice of the Martyrs Canada. He says the mask is off. "It surprises me in one sense, that it has come out there, that the government is kind of pushing for it. The militants want to eradicate Christianity, or any other religion, and make it 100% Muslim."
Christians are concerned that the edict will make things even harder for them than they already are. The spiritual climate has grown increasingly unfriendly over the last couple of years. According to the reports from the Voice of the Martyrs Canada, Sunni Islam is the state religion; the existence of Christians and Jews is tolerated, but the government does not accept the existence of an indigenous Moroccan Church.
Believers feel vulnerable, explains Musselman. "You have, on one hand, the government who uses these fatwas to intimidate and put pressure on Christians, and then you've got the militants–or some like to call the ‘fundamentalists'–that would then use such things to actually have those that leave Islam killed."
The acceleration of harassment started with the 2010 expulsion of foreign Christians. Musselman says that move had a severe impact on an already small Church. Of Morocco's 32.7 million people, Christians account for 29,000. "When they call for a fatwa, and apostasy being a part of that in calling for the death penalty, the believers, the pastors, the small Christian community in Morocco would obviously be concerned."
It seems obvious that anti-Christian sentiment is growing in the country. Moroccan believers now meet in small groups for fear of persecution. "What happens often is that the more pressure that is put on those pastors, Christians that would become even more determined in sharing their faith." On the other hand, "There are those that this would intimidate them further for them to keep quiet and not share their faith."
While becoming a Christian in Morocco is not actually illegal, it is forbidden to share the gospel with non-Christians. Proselytization accusations are cropping up, and some Christians have been imprisoned. While the Voice of the Martyrs Canada is coming alongside, sometimes believers need to know their plight isn't being ignored. "Pray that the church would be strong, that they would see this as an attack against them, but [that they would] be reminded that the battle is not against flesh and blood, so it's not against the government there or even the militant Muslims."
Please pray that Moroccan Christians will continue to gather despite the threats of reprisals. "Pray that the Lord will strengthen the church in the midst of this and that believers there would not be overcome by fear." Pray that Moroccan Christians' passion for Christ will be the light that draws others to Jesus.