MOROCCO: Facebook used to target Christians

Facebook MontageMoroccan Christians claim that Muslim extremists are helping the government to pursue them by exposing them on Facebook.

Gardes Maroc Maroc has posted images of dozens of Christians, calling them “hyena evangelists” and “wolves in lambs’ skins”. He claims that they are trying to “shake the faith of Muslims”, terminology that echoes Morocco’s anti-proselytising law, which outlaws efforts to “shake the faith of Muslims.”

The images depict Moroccans who have turned from Islam to Christianity, and their families, and details are given of their church activities and home addresses, plus stories that malign them. Pictures of hyenas are inserted next to those of Christians.

The Facebook page mentions the Village of Hope, a Christian-run orphanage in Ain Leuh, 80km south of Fez, which was closed by government authorities in March 2010. The expatriate staff members were expelled, leaving behind the children for whom they had cared. Gardes Maroc Maroc claims that local Christians under orders of “foreign missionaries” are trying to adopt the children “so the missionary efforts would not go in vain,” and he calls on the authorities to investigate.

Since March, the Moroccan government has expelled more than 100 foreign Christians for alleged proselytising. This has been described by observers as part of a plan to rid the historically moderate, progressive Muslim country of all Christian elements. More than 7,000 Muslim clerics have signed a statement denouncing all Christian activities and calling foreign Christians’ aid work “religious terrorism.”

Moroccan Christians claim that, even before the deportations began, the authorities, extremists and society have been colluding against them. Dozens of Christians have been called to police stations for interrogation and many of them have been threatened; this official harassment intensified in March and April.

“They mocked our faith,” said one, a former Muslim. He reported that the authorities interrogated him for eight hours and followed him for three weeks in March and April. During the interrogation, police officers told him that they were prepared to throw him into jail and kill him.

Many Moroccan Christians say that the attitude of their Muslim relatives has changed, and some have been forced to leave home or have chosen to go so as “not to create problems” for their families. Some house churches have stopped meeting until the pressure subsides.

“The government is testing the reactions,” said Moroccan lawyer Abdel Adghirni. “The government is trying to dominate. They are defending themselves. They feel the wind of change.” Adghirni said that he believes Morocco cannot survive and develop economically and democratically without national diversity. “We can’t be free without Christians,” he said. “The existence of Christians among us is the proof of liberty.”(Compass Direct)