Religious freedom and decline

Christianity may look in decline if congregation attendance is the barometer. But it still inherent even in Western societies. Christmas is still celebrated although it has become for many a shopping and a party occasion. Its messages are still conveyed through the media.
There are preachers who convey their messages through different means. Christian values are still dominant, especially in many African countries. Poor people find their solace in religion. In the West, Christianity is in decline because of the material pursuits. Sunday or the weekend is no longer a time to get near to God but to enjoy the pleasures of the mundane world. In view of the different choices material pursuits offer, Christianity is marginalised. People fall asleep watching TV instead of reading the Bible.

Religion isn’t falling just in Christian countries but in different countries because new lifestyles. While religion is an escape for some, for others it is a set of fetters from which they want to liberate themselves. For those who don’t like “dos” and don’ts” find their comfort in no practising any religion at all. Not to forget those who like to get the best of all religions. The fact that there are new types of religions like Scientology shows many people aren’t against religion but they’re seeking a religion that suits them even if it isn’t revealed to them like Christianity it is the creation of their own spiritual leaning.

Morocco is a country where 99% of the population is considered as Muslim. The number of Jews has fallen to less than 5,000 due to their major exodus after Morocco’s independence and the set of Israel. Now there are more than 800,000 Israelis of Moroccan origins. Jews enjoy in Morocco the highest protections. There were Jewish ministers in the Moroccan government. One of the advisers to the Moroccan King is André Azoulay, a Jew. In Marrakesh, there is a big 500 years old Jewish cemetery in a popular neighborhood. Jews of Moroccan origins who migrated to Israel or another part of the world still hold their Moroccan nationality. They can come back at any time. Many notable Israeli politicians are of Moroccan origin.

Some have erroneous views of Islam and Muslims. They may have developed their views of them from news reports like the teddy bear teacher in Sudan or the Saudi girls sentenced to 200 lashes. In Morocco, there are no such insolent cases. Nobody has ever been beheaded, had his hand cut off or lashed as it is the case in Saudi Arabia. Geographically, Morocco is closer to Europe than to other Muslim countries geographically and culturally. In Morocco, Christians are on best terms with Muslims. There aren’t special districts for them. In Morocco, there is no obligation to show faith in public to be accepted.

The Christians who have established churches in its different Moroccan cities, mainly Casablanca, Rabat and Marrakesh were the French. This essentially happened after French colonialism of Morocco which lasted essentially from 1912 to 1956, a short period in comparison with other African countries like Algeria which was colonised for 130 years (1832 – 1962). France attempted to Christianise the Berbers in Morocco, which it considered of non-Arab origin. But its attempt failed. In Rabat, there is still the outstanding Catholic St Paul’s Cathedral in the city centre. Other churches have closed down after the departure of the French. Very few of them remained operational for a shrinking congregation.

In Morocco, preaching Christianity or for a Moroccan to openly convert to it is punishable by law. There were cases of Moroccan being arrested and imprisoned for propagating this religion. The Bible isn’t on sale or available in libraries although there are books that talk about Christianity or that compares Christianity to Islam. Many Europeans are coming to settle in Morocco, especially in big cities like Marrakesh. But the majority of them don’t practice any religion at all. They lead a secular life. But they are free to practice their faith as long as they don’t ask Moroccan Muslims to convert to Christianity. In a video tape, Al Zawahiri of Al Qaeda asked the Moroccans to attack the Europeans settling in Morocco as he saw them as crusaders. This hasn’t been heeded. The Europeans feel more secure in Morocco as the Moroccans in general have religious tolerance . In Marrakesh old city, the Europeans live side by side with the local inhabitants without any feeling of harassment.

Christians are free to practice their religion. This is to show you that in Morocco there is no animosity between Christians and Muslims. The first visit by a Pope to a Muslim country was by John Paul to Morocco. The former French president Jacques Chirac has settled in Morocco at the end of his presidency. Winston Churchill was one of the great admirers of Marrakesh. In the hotel (La Mamounia) where he used to stay there is still Winston Churchill suite, one of the most expensive ones.

With the Moroccans in their interactions with people of other faiths, especially Christians, there is no sign of religious discrimination. They accept one another.

In the Arab world, one of the category of Christians that suffer most are the Copts in Egypt as they are still viewed as second class citizens. Many feel obliged to hide their religion to get a good job.
In Iraq, it is evident that the Christians can’t feel secure. Under Saddam, they enjoyed full protection. Now with the infiltration of extremists like Al Qaeda, they are easy targets as for them the “Islamisation” of Iraq starts with eradicating the “infidels”.

As long as Christians keep to their religion without interfering in the faith of the others, they shouldn’t be harassed. They have the right to enjoy religious freedom. What makes relations between people of different faiths sour are political influences and ideologies. Christians in Iraq can feel better at home when the political problems are settled. If not, they will continue being a scapegoat for those who seek to attribute to them all the ills they suffer from.

Listen to BBC WHYS show on this topic.

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1 Comment

  1. Anonymous said,

    December 9, 2007 at 9:52 am

    It seems to me, religious freedom is the freedom to believe, practice, and learn about any religion. In that definition Morocco does not have religious freedom. They may have a measure of religious tolerance (shown to foreign Christians), but not freedom.

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