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Published on 25 May, 2010

Morocco deports more Christians

Morocco
(MNN) — Morocco has deported 26 more foreign-born Christians in the space of
ten days, Compass Direct News reports, bringing the total number of Christians
deported since early March to about 105. It seems the government is under pressure from Islamic hardliners to
purge the nation of Christianity. 

"I don't see the end," said Salim
Sefiane, a Moroccan living abroad. "I see this as a ‘cleansing' of Christians
out of Morocco. Then I see this turning against the Moroccan church, which
is already underground, and then persecution of Moroccan Christians, which is
already taking place in recent days."

Approximately 1,000 Moroccans are
Christians – some are even third-generation Christians. Some of the local believers are already
suffering psychologically "heavy" interrogations at police stations on a daily
basis.  At least two were beaten in the
last couple weeks. 

Although 99 percent of its
population is Muslim, Morocco has historically tolerated Christianity among
both its nationals and its expatriates. Recent
developments have taken many by surprise, but they are perhaps inevitable, a
regional legal expert said. He explained
that the Organization of the Islamic Conference has been pressuring Middle
Eastern and African nations to purge themselves of Christianity.

"Countries which have been more
forward-looking and spoken about rights, freedoms and equalities have been
pressured to demonstrate their Muslim credentials. And the best way to do this
is to sanitize [religious] minorities from the borders," he said.

The government is carrying out
its purge in violation of Morocco's own law. Unless they face a criminal accusation, foreigners who have lived in the
country for over ten years may not be deported. Once they receive the deportation order, they have 48 hours in which to appeal it. 

Almost none of the deportees, however,
have had the opportunity to appeal. Most
receive only a few hours' notice before they are summarily escorted to the
country's exit ports. Authorities only
produced an official deportation order for three of the victims. In most cases, the deportees were presented
with an Arabic document they were expected to sign, stating that they "understood"
they were to be deported.   

"Most of these [deportations] are
happening over the weekends, when the courts are closed," Sefiane said. "Most
of them are done in a way where they're bringing them in [to the police
station], intimidating them, and manhandling them out of the country. Many of
them are not even going back to say goodbye to their wives, or even to pack a
bag."

In one case, a man who resisted
was forcibly drugged and sent out of the country.   

"The expats in the country are very vulnerable, and the way it has happened has
been against the laws of the country," said a European Christian who was
deported last week after nearly a decade of running his business in Morocco.
"When I tried to walk away from the situation, I was physically stopped."

"Basically they are trying to con everyone into leaving the country," he said.

Deportees from North America,
Latin America, Europe, Africa, New Zealand and Korea have been forced to leave
behind their wives, children, communities, and businesses without even saying
goodbye. In many cases the deportation
left the family without a breadwinner. 

"It's devastating, because we
have invested years of our lives into our community, business community and
charity sectors," said the European Christian. "People flooded to our house when
they heard I was bundled into the back of a police car by the local
authorities. It was like a death in the family — forcibly ejected from the
country without being able to say goodbyes, just like that."

According to a regional legal expert who spoke on condition of anonymity, a
small cohort of Islamic extremists is running a media campaign to "get
[Christians'] good works out of the public eye and demonize Christians." The goal is to expel foreign Christians and
turn the Moroccan people against local Christians. 

"There are too many eyes and ears
to what they want to do to the native Christians," the expert explained. "They're trying to get to them… They want to
shut down the native Moroccan Christians."

The deportation orders originate
in the Ministry of Interior, where a hard-line Muslim took the position of
interior director in January. Officials cite
"proselytism" as the justification for the deportations. Religious Endowments and Islamic Affairs
Minister Ahmed Toufiq told Reuters that "proselytism" and the "activism of some
foreigners" had "undermined public order." 

Moroccan media reported on April 12
that 7,000 religious Muslim leaders signed a statement that described Christian
activities in the country as "moral rape" and "religious terrorism." A nationwide mudslinging campaign vilified Moroccan
Christians as people who bribed others to convert to Christianity. 

"We've been told that the Christians
are a threat to the national security, so they are using terrorism laws against
peace-loving Christians," said the deported European Christian. "But it is
massively backfiring."

"The biggest problem is the image
the Ministry of Justice is pushing about who the Christian foreigners are," an observer
explained on condition of anonymity. "All the articles have been extreme
exaggerations of the manipulative aspect of what foreigners were doing,
especially when it comes to minors."

So behind the purge is a twisted
lie: the lie that upstanding people who have contributed to the nation's
culture and economy are "religious terrorists." This lie can only have a destructive effect on the nation of Morocco. 

"They expelled people who helped
build up the country, trained people, educated Moroccan children, cared for
orphans and widows, increased the GDP and trade," said the regional legal
expert. "These people they expelled weren't even proselytizing under their own
law. There's an international standard, yet they changed the definition of the
terminology and turned it into this horrible ‘religious terrorism.'"

In the midst of the injustice, Christians
have a new opportunity to bear witness to the Gospel. Many Moroccans are asking their Christian friends
about their faith. 

"They are being impacted by the
reality of Christ through this, and it's having more of an effect on the
community than years and years of quietly demonstrating Christ peacefully and
lawfully," said the deported European Christian. "By breaking their own laws,
they have opened the lid on the reality of the life of Christ."

In the meantime, the co-chairman
of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission is fighting to bring pressure to bear
on the Moroccan government. Congressman
Frank Wolf (R-VA) has called congressional hearings on June 17 to investigate
the human rights situation. He also
called on the U.S. government to suspend $697.5 million in aid. The aid was awarded on the basis of the fact
that Morocco was "ruling justly." 

Unfortunately, justice is no
longer the reality in Morocco. Pray for
the deported Christians and the Christians who remain. 

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