Six years ago, a delegation of evangelical leaders visited the Kingdom of Morocco and hailed it as "open to evangelical Christian outreach." In 2005, country officials even invited the Newsboys, Phil Keaggy, and other Christian artists to stage a three-day music festival in the city* of Marrakech.
The North African country is apparently open no more. In March it deported dozens of foreign Christian workers and foster parents. In addition, the country's 1,000 Christians have faced "significant increased pressure," according to an expert in Muslim-Christian relations who has frequent contact with religious and government leaders in Morocco (and who asked to remain anonymous).
At the Village of Hope orphanage near Ain Leuh, 50 miles south of Fez, the government expelled 16 staff workers, 10 foster parents, and 13 natural-born dependents. Police first came to the orphanage March 6, questioning children and looking for Bibles and evidence of Christian evangelism.
New Zealand native Chris Broadbent, a worker at Village of Hope, said government accusations of proselytizing were unfounded, and that all staff had signed and adhered to a non-proselytizing policy.
"We were a legal institution," Broadbent said. "Right from the start they knew it was an organization founded by Christians and run by a mixture of Christians and Muslims working together."
The change in Morocco's approach to Christian activity "appears to have taken everyone by surprise, ngo leaders and embassy staff included," said Steve Moore, president and ceo of the Mission Exchange. "Informed expatriates with a long history in the country admit their analysis of the political trends have proven to be wrong."
But J. Dudley Woodberry, senior professor of Islamic studies at ...