Morocco's constitution guarantees religious freedom to its 32 million people, but the more citizens convert to Christianity, the more Muslims publicly complain. Earlier this year, some Arab and French publications ran controversial articles about Christian growth. Statistics fluctuated wildly as public criticism of the government's tolerance of Christian expansion intensified. Now Moroccan leaders and believers are working to improve their awkward relationship.
Local Christians and foreign workers have been shaken by subsequent events: Authorities deported a South African pastor in March, and government officials have interrogated a few prominent local believers.
The uproar prompted Moroccan leaders to postpone the high-profile "Dialogue of Evangelical and Muslim Leaders" set for May in Rabat, the capital. In July, Richard Cizik, the National Association of Evangelicals' vice president for government affairs, met with prominent Moroccan Muslims to clarify misunderstandings. As a result, the dialogue has been rescheduled for next spring.
According to an expatriate living in Casablanca (who wished to remain anonymous), the government probably doesn't feel threatened by the small number of known local Christians400 to 500. Moroccan believers face intimidation and ostracism from their families more than hassle from the government.
Morocco teeters on the western edge of the Islamic world and has a 99 percent Sunni Muslim population. Its leaders promote tolerance and moderation. It was named the top-rated Arab democracy this year by The Economist and wants to be a model for the Arab world.
Still reeling from a suicide bomb attack that rocked Casablanca in May 2003, nearly three-quarters of Moroccans believe Islamic terrorism ...