In an unprecedented move for the modern Arab Muslim country, Morocco deported as many as 70 foreign aid workers in March, some 20 of whom were long-term Christian workers at Village of Hope, a family-style orphanage. A national Moroccan pastor and his wife were also detained.
The foreigners’ residence permits were revoked without notice. Later, the Moroccan government made a public charge of proselytizing, which is illegal according to the Moroccan Penal Code, though freedom to practice one’s religion is guaranteed by the constitution.
“We were a legal institution,” said Chris Broadbent, a worker at the 10-year-old Village of Hope. “Right from the start, they knew it was an organization founded by Christians and run by a mixture of Christians and Muslim people working together.”
According to Agence Maghreb Arabe Presse, the Interior Ministry also charged the orphanage workers with “exploit[ing] some families’ poverty and target[ing] their minor children.”
Some Christians cite the appointment of new ministers in the interior and justice portfolios for the religious crackdown. However, the pastor of an international English-speaking church noted several raids on Christian gatherings and expulsions of foreign Christians in January 2010, November 2009, and March 2009.
The measures taken against Christians are particularly surprising given Morocco’s recent affirmation of its “attachment to respect for and protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms” and “commitment to freedom of religion and belief, tolerance and the peaceful coexistence of different cultures,” issued at the conclusion of the European Union-Morocco Summit Mar. 7 in Spain.
Morocco has an estimated 1,000–3,000 national Christians.
—Karla Braun, from reports