Christian Missionaries Eye Morocco

source: Islamonline.net, December 15, 2008

RABAT — A new breed of Christian missionaries is turning to the North African Muslim kingdom of Morocco in search for new ground to spread their faith.

"The goal is to give a clear presentation of the Gospel," Tyler, a member of an Ohio Baptist church who set up Project North Africa in Morocco, told Reuters on Monday, December 15.

"If you had the cure to the AIDS virus, would you not want to take it to the people?"

Tyler, who says his work could be disrupted if he gave his surname, has come to Morocco some three years ago.

"Three years ago I began praying about parts of the world that had not taken up the Gospel."

Since then, he has been preparing the ground for colleagues, mostly from South America, who would learn Morocco's dialect and seek to set up small businesses to fund the group's evangelical work.

Christian proselytizers like Tyler say their clandestine status allows them to set up businesses or language schools at which converts are sometimes employed.

Like across the Arab Maghreb, missionary groups in Morocco currently range from broad alliances such as Partners International and Cooperative Baptist Fellowship to small Baptist and Pentecostal churches based in the Americas and Europe.

There are some 800 active European proselytizers in Morocco where some 1,000 people converted to Christianity in 2004, according to unofficial estimates.

Muslims make up 99 percent of the Arab country's population, while Christians and Jews represent a meager one percent.

New Breed

Experts affirm that missionaries in Morocco reflect the rise of a new "untrained" breed of Christian proselytizers.

"With the internet and the increase in travel, you have a democratization of missions where anyone who feels like it can go anywhere they want," Dana Robert, world Christianity professor at Boston University, told Reuters.

This new generation, Robert says, lacks the training and knowledge of old ones.

"The new breed of missionary doesn't have the same historical training as the older established denominations, nor necessarily the cultural training," she stressed.

"So there's a bull-in-a-china-shop effect."

Western and Arab reports have repeatedly spoken about increasing proselytizing activities in the Arab Maghreb.

Proselytizers traditionally eye troubled and disaster-stricken Muslim areas like Iraq, Sudan's Darfur and Indonesia's Ache.

The vigorous proselytizing in developing countries has led to kidnapping of missionaries as well as anti-conversion laws in some countries.

Mohammed Yssef, general secretary of the Superior Council of Ulemas, Morocco's highest religious authority, insists missionaries typically target the poor and the sick.

"When people respond positively (to missionaries), it is when they don't have their full freedom," he told Reuters.

"Once they recover their normal health and situation, they recover their ability to decide."

Yssef noted that missionaries also try to win over communities like North Africa's Berbers by telling them Islam was imposed on them by Arabs.

"These are unethical methods."

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