See all those languages up there? We translate Global Voices stories to make the world's citizen media available to everyone.

Learn more about Lingua Translation  »

Morocco: Christian Aid Workers Expelled

Saying goodbye (photo from the Village of Hope official website)

Saying goodbye to some of the orphans (photo from the Village of Hope official website)

Last week, 20 staff members of the Village of Hope, a small orphanage in a small town in rural Morocco, were deported from the country without warning, under charges of proselytizing. The Village has quietly existed for the past ten years, and is staffed mostly by Christians from Western countries.

Staff members claim they have always been transparent about their Christian identities to Moroccan authorities, without incident. For many of the children, the orphanage is the only home they have ever known.

The Village of Hope's official Web site hosts a statement, endorsed by all of the staff members who were asked to leave the country, which reads:

On Monday 8th March, all 16 overseas workers, including 10 parents, and 13 natural-born dependents, were told they were to be evicted from the site and country.  The reason given was that the parents had been proselytizing, with no explanation of who, when, where or how this was alleged to have occurred.  No charges concerning the welfare and care of the children have ever been raised as a concern by the Moroccan authorities in the 10 year history of VOH.

The Moroccan authorities have not produced any evidence of the alleged offence and they gave only a few hours for the parents to pack up belongings and explain to their children that they might never see them again.

Few media outlets have picked up on the story (the official Moroccan news agency [FR]  is one), but a number of bloggers with personal connections to the Village have begun to spread word about the incident, some with hopes of returning the staff to Morocco. Blogger Elizabeth Shelby, a Christian worker who volunteered at the orphanage in the past, is calling for prayer from her community, but also is hoping to find explanation from the government as to why the sudden change of heart occurred. She writes:

It has been over 24 hours since 20 workers (most, parents) at the Village of Hope were taken from their children, unexpectedly by Moroccan officials. They were given thirty minutes to pack their belongings and leave the country, with no guarantee of ever seeing their Moroccan children again. The Village of Hope has been in compliance and worked with the Moroccan government for 10 years, and have had very few problems. As of January 4th, Morocco has a new Minister of Justice (ironic) Mohammad Naciri, one who feels he must exercise his power in order to shut down the Village of Hope because he believes “Christians are proselytizing.”

Shelby is also leading a campaign on Twitter, using the hashtag #MoroccoOrphans and has started a Facebook group.

The Moroccan Dispatches has written a thoughtful piece exploring the various aspects of the government's decision, as well as the operations of the orphanage. In respect to both, the blogger writes:

As I mentioned, it's hard to know what really is permissible and what is not in Morocco since a rule on the books does not necessarily mean anything. So perhaps, the Moroccan authorities turned a blind eye for the past few decades just as they do with alcohol, hashish, prostitution, and speeding. Or perhaps The Village of Hope hid some of their activities. I do not know.

An American blogger in Morocco writes in with support for the Village:

[The Village's staff]  honestly thought they were complying with regulations, but were interrogated and deported with almost no time to pack or to say goodbye to the children. Orphans have a particularly hard lot in Islamic countries, where, even if adopted, they don't have the same rights as biological children, and even the Muslim Moroccans who worked with these kids got kicked off the premises, so there is not a single familiar face taking care of them right now. Please be in prayer for the children, for those who were deported, and for those who may still be deported. Its a rough situation, especially since Morocco has been considered a moderate nation which encourages peaceful relations between peoples of different faiths. Keep the people of this beautiful country in your prayers.

20 comments

  • masihi banda

    My heart goes out to these innocent orphans who are left without hope in future. I know these people had good intentions but if Morocco doesn’t appreciate you then get out. You only hurt yourself and the kids you serve. The Christians should realize the Muslim world is run under strict Sharia Laws and the backward Bedouin ideology. There is no way your good deeds are going to be appreciated. One positive thing though, there are many Christian nations who could use such resources for their orphan centers, why not go there. Remember in the Muslim world, you are looked upon as an enemy of Islam. The sad thing is, one day these poor kids will be used as human shields and the suicide bombers.

    • Kristine

      The Muslim world is not governed by strict Sharia law at all! I’d like you to elaborate on this. And the backward Bedouin ideology? Again, where do you mean exactly? And backward by what standards? In Islam, a child is considered an “orphan” even when abandoned by his/her father, so by this standard a great number of people of the Western world are orphans. Look at the statistics of children without fathers and true orphans in Islamic countries, and look for a true definition/translation of “orphan”. Also, non-Muslims are not considered enemies of Islam at all, not by the majority of people and not by Islamic doctrines either. Your last sentence shows your extremely limited knowledge of the whole situation. There is a war against Islam since the early 1990’s at least and if you understood deeply the changes, you wouldn’t say such things.

    • While I am incredibly saddened by the Moroccan government’s behavior in this instance, it seems to me that you know nothing about Morocco, which has always been respectful toward its Christian and Jewish residents. Morocco is not under strict Sharia law, and it is not a place where suicide bombing has ever been acceptable (nor common, and any of that ideology is imported). How incredibly ignorant of you to imply so.

  • Ahmad

    You need to get your basic vocabulary right before you preach us on where we live. I doubt it that you know what \Sharia\, \Bedouin\, or even \ideology\ is.
    Honestly, where do you get your knowledge about a region so big and diverse as the Arab World? Fox News?

    Using \masihi\ in place of \christian\ doesn’t give you credit.

  • Sam Hawthorn

    Hi,

    it is vitally important to make it clear that the views expressed in the comments here are not the views of the Village of Hope, it’s families or it’s trustees, who have always worked WITH the government to ensure it is run within the constraints of Moroccan law and in an amiable manner.

    Please ensure that anything posted is shown to VoH’s trustees beforehand. One of whom is Mark Johnston and can be contacted at mcwirral@yahoo.co.uk

    Blessings,
    Sam

    • Sam,

      I don’t understand — this is quite obviously a public media site, and the comments are not written by people involved with the VoH. I, as a writer, am not advocating for the VoH; I am simply reporting on what bloggers have said about it.

      -Jillian

  • Sam Hawthorn

    Hi Jillian,

    I really don’t want to hinder any converage we can generate, but care has to be taken in what is said as everything posted can be picked up by anyone. Some of the quotes in the article suggest blame in the direction of certain officials which is unfounded and paint a negative picture of Moroccan authorities, who as stated by the VoH themselves weren’t at all cruel during the evcition.

    It’s a shame the comments had turned so negative so quickly.

    I’m only trying to help, I didn’t mean to cause offence. I don’t want to “silence” anyone, I just want those kids back with their parents.

    Sam

  • Rachid

    This isn’t related to religious freedom in any case.. Moroccans have always welcomed Christians and Jewish with open arms and I Honestly think it’s disgusting to exploit innocent, poor and helpless children. The missionaries are lucky to let go instead of facing justice for violating local laws..If they really care about orphans (not evangelism), they could just sponsor them through other local associations.
    That said, the Moroccan government and civil society should step up and take care of the orphans..They are the victims after all.

  • Marino

    The person calling it self “Kristine” is trying in a way to play on words. What dose adult orphans have to do with these KIDS?
    orphan, according to wikipedia,” is a child permanently bereaved of his or her parents. In common usage, only a child…who has lost both parents is called an orphan.”
    This is the case here. What have it to do with adult orphans, for God sake. The number of orphans in the Arab world is so big (due to illegal relationship *rape,Nikah mut‘ah,Nikah Misyar…* and the father don’t accept them as his children) that a very big number of those children grow up to be bad people, and end up in prison or dead. and many of them are used under the name of “JIHAD”, and fighting “THE ENEMIES OF ALLAH” and a”LIVING BOMB”…

    “non-Muslims are not considered enemies of Islam at all, not by the majority of people and not by Islamic doctrines either. ”
    => If you go back to the Quran you will find a phrase or 2 that support this, but you also gonna find dozens and dozens that doesn’t (more than 35+). You will find curses, like praying to Allah to curse us and make our life miserable, spiting, and “invitations” to kill “the KUFAR” and “mushrikun” (which are us Christians and Jews)…
    like SURAH AL TAWBAH 9:29″29 Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which has been forbidden by Allah and his messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of truth, from among the people of Al-Kitab (Christians), until they pay the Jizyah (or extra Taxes) with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.”

    If only the World could read the Arabic version of Quran, not the translations because the translations loses 60% of the real meaning of the Quran, you will find the true Islam “lie”.

    All the Arab governments are govern by al sharia. If you don’t believe JUST READ THE LAWS….

    • masihi banda

      @Marino

      Thanks for proving my point through the Quranic Suras. Job well done Sir! I wish others would have the guts to come out and expose the folly of this Bedouin ideology and draconian paganism. Much of this religion is based on in the worship of Moon god Allah, symbols of whom moon and star, are proudly mounted on every mosque and every minaret as a proof his deity.

      Muslims everywhere are in denial that their belief system originated from the Bedouin traditions. This whole concept of Bedouin-submission leads one to live a life of bigotry and hypocrisy. And that’s what you’ve got in this case when they ruthlessly expelled the workers of hope from a tiny village in Morocco. They will never recognize the good the Christians have done over the centuries: It seems, they have eyes but they can not see; they ears but they can not hear; they have hearts but they can not love. Perhaps the culprit is the submission to this moon god.

      • Amusing, taking “bedouin” tradition to task for “bigotry” and displaying profound bigotry and ignorance oneself.

        Of course in fact Moroccan legal code is bloody long ways off from Sharia – indeed it’s pretty laughably ignorant to claim that it really has much relationship with Sharia at all. Excepting the Moudaouana, the family code, it’s almost entirely French Code Civil, based off of the colonial era legal codes. Even the family code is a long English mile from being “proper” Sharia (to the great consternation of religious conservatives).

  • […] York also has a round-up of reactions at Global Voices Online. Much discussion centers on whether the aid workers were teaching Christianity or evangelizing […]

  • This appears to be generally a rather sad set of events. At the same time, on hearing the news, and learning it was in the Meknes area, I immediately recalled meeting roughly ten years ago a bunch of Americans who were installing themselves.

    They confided, incorrectly believing I had some sympathy it seemed, that they were creating a covert mission to convert the Moroccans “to the love of Christ” I believe they put it. I rather had an urge to report them, but business called.

    I can’t help wonder if such characters were involved in this, and in any case, such shenanigans give others a bad name.

    • Nicholas Selby

      Lounsbury,

      You are right that some Christians have behaved irresponsibly, thinking they are being brave but actually putting all their compatriots at risk.

      The Village of Hope is not in this category. They have been working in the country for decades, they have a strict non-proselytism policy to which all workers must agree, their work has been visible to the authorities throughout and has had visibility at the very highest level – the King himself.

      The real victims here are the children whose world has been torn apart suddenly and without warning.

  • Jennifer Mc Cleary

    You know, it disgusts me that this discussion has largely become a circular religious argument rather than focusing on what’s important: Children. The outcomes for “orphans” or “foster kids” are terrible. These kids leave these orphanages with no job skills, no family, no real world connections, no money, and no hope. It’s no wonder that the majority of them end up destitute, homeless, incarcerated, or dead. I see it everyday when I come to work, as I work for the Department of Family and Protective Services in the States and I study it extensively in school, as a masters student of Sociology, with a focus on child welfare.

    Please put your religious squabbles aside and open your hearts and wallets to help these innocent children. God knows they are suffering the most in this situation. They have lost the only people they know and trust and worst off, their futures are ambiguous. The number one complaint I get from foster kids in the States is that they are never informed about the direction of their own futures, which leads to distrust and anger. They leave these orphanages thinking that they only way to achieve “success” by breaking the law to get it.

    Look, I’m not here to blame one group/person or another, because that’s not my place. I just want to shift the focus off of arguments about religious doctrine and onto what is important, which are these children’s futures. Someone please tell me where I can donate my time, expertise, and money. It is my life’s passion to help children in need, no matter what their race, religion, or lot in life. I wish the same could be said for obvious others.

  • simon

    Ignoring the off-topic and unhelpful postings above….

    I have no information about this particular case but am very suprised to see Christian Aid’s name associated with an issue like this. In UK church circles, Christian Aid are widely known as social-justice movitated and NON-proselytising in their work. Indeed, the more conservative and evangelical movements in UK christendom prefer to support their own ‘aid’ agencies precisely for that reason.

    For many years (and still?) Christian Aid’s advertising slogan was “We believe in life BEFORE death” … much to the irritation of some of those whose great preoccupation is that which follows ‘after’.

    Hope the kids are ok.

Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »

Guidelines

  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.

Receive great stories from around the world directly in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the best of Global Voices
* = required field
Email Frequency



No thanks, show me the site