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C

hange is taking place slowly in Morocco, which is 99% Muslim. King Mohammed VI, who claims direct descent from Muhammad, is active in “interfaith” dialogue. However, indigenous Moroccan Christian converts from Islam can still only meet secretly in small groups in their homes. Church buildings, many from the French colonial era, may only be attended by Christian immigrants, who mainly come from sub-Saharan Africa.

Islam remains the religion of the state under Morocco’s reforming constitution, adopted in 2011 in the wake of the “Arab Spring” protests, which guarantees all citizens freedom to practise their religion. Identity cards no longer record a person’s faith. The constitution only recognises the religions of Sunni Islam and Judaism. Voluntary conversion from Islam, while stigmatised, is not illegal, but “enticing” conversion or proselytising – so called “shaking the faith of a Muslim” – is punishable by up to three years in prison. Foreign missionaries caught evangelising are expelled.

Morocco was once a major centre of Christianity but was Islamised after the Muslim conquest of North Africa in 670 AD, which brought Arab rule

Only God knows how many indigenous Christian converts there are in Morocco. Estimates vary from 3,000 up to 50,000. Christian converts, who are mainly ethnic Berbers, face social, family and cultural pressures. The authorities ignore such Christians as long as they remain “invisible” and keep their gatherings discreet. Radio, television and now the internet all contribute to making Christianity more accessible. The New Testament has been translated into Moroccan Arabic and the Old Testament translation is scheduled to be completed by 2021.

The National Coalition for Moroccan Christians is continuing to press for more religious freedoms, including the right of all Moroccans to choose their faith, freedom of worship, official recognition of churches, the right to have Christian cemeteries and the right to give children Christian names.

Prayer

Give thanks for the measure of freedom allowed to Christians in Morocco. Pray that the community of invisible Christians will be recognised by the government, allowed to worship freely and to share their faith with others.