Morocco (MNN) — Two years ago, many foreign Christians were expelled from Morocco. It changed the face of the Moroccan church. The Christians, for example, now meet in smaller groups than they were used to. Twenty members are a big church nowadays.
2010 was a difficult year for the church in Morocco. "After the foreigners were expelled, almost half of the churches stopped; it was really a big crackdown" says an Open Doors worker responsible for North Africa. A year later, things turned normal again for the estimated 3,000 Christians, but the tendency is to split up the groups of believers into smaller groups.
The current year is seen as a crucial year for the church. There are some signs that things might become more difficult. In the beginning of March, three brothers were arrested at a coffee shop. "It was clear that they were arrested because of their Christian activity. The police asked questions about this and tried to find Christian literature or material." According to the Open Doors spokesman, they also tried to find the pastor of the three men. He was warned, however, and went to a safe place. The three men were released a day after their arrest because of lack of proof.
"For the Christians in Morocco, these arrests are a sign. The country is now governed by a government with clear influence of Islamists. Christians believe that the arrests are the start of a new trend," says the Open Doors worker.
According to the Open Doors worker, the fact that many foreigners had to leave the country has turned out to be a positive thing for the Moroccan church. "The church needs its own personality to organize itself. The only big difficulty is financial. The churches have less money now."
Becoming a Christian in Morocco is, in itself, not forbidden. But it is almost a miracle when someone converts. "It is forbidden to share the Gospel with non-Christians," says the worker. One of the tools Open Doors uses to support and to strengthen the church are Christian TV programs, Web sites, and follow-up. For Web sites, Christians need a lot of wisdom and discernment. "The government tries to infiltrate this with spies," says the worker about the Web sites.
The face of the churches has changed in the last years. "Ten years ago, I would have said that most of the members were singles; now you see families in the churches. That also makes the churches stronger. I would say that the church has potential to grow by itself. The church has good leaders that have no fear. The foundation is good."
Open Doors is helping Christian leaders in Morocco. "We offer training and help the leaders to be able to train others so they can stay in the country."
Morocco is No. 29 on the Open Doors 2012 World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians in the world.