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What changed?

"What changed?" Continued...

Issue: "Profiles in effective compassion," April 24, 2010

Williams considers his work in Morocco over, but he worries that authorities may impede other Christians from the humanitarian work that has helped the country: "They want the fruit, but they absolutely don't want the root."

Back in Washington, Ambassador Mekouar says Morocco welcomes both. He insists all the deportees were guilty of proselytizing, though he said he didn't immediately have details about cases outside VOH. He says proselytizing involves pushing someone to change their faith, but says conversations about religion are permissible.

When asked why the cluster of deportations happened at the same time and in different cities, he attributed them to ongoing investigations. He dismisses notions that the authorities used deportations to send a political message to extremists who resent the country for tolerating Christians, though he does acknowledge that such threats and tensions exist.

For Christians remaining in Morocco, tensions remain high. Foreign Christians say they wonder if standards regarding proselytizing have changed. Most have interpreted anti-proselytizing laws as prohibiting attempts to pressure, coerce, or bribe someone to convert. Friendly conversations about Christianity have been permissible. Now some aren't sure. "At what point does living your life become proselytizing?" asks Jack Wald, pastor of Rabat International Church in Morocco. "We've always lived our lives openly. . . . Now everyone is unsure of what is permitted."

Wald, Williams, and Ramsey all say they have another concern: Moroccan Christians. All three report that sources inside the country have told them that authorities are questioning and intimidating local Christians. Ramsey says some Moroccans have told him that authorities are following some Christians and watching their homes. Wald has heard similar reports. "The first wave was this deportation of foreign Christians," says Wald. "Now the heat is on Moroccan Christians-it's pretty intense."

Wald also remains concerned for the intense environment for the children living at VOH apart from the adults who raised them. Every Sunday, his church bulletin includes a count of the days that the families have been apart. Easter Sunday marked Day 27, he said: "We don't want to forget."

-ED. NOTE: Michael Ramsey and Janet Smith are pseudonyms to protect their identities and their contacts in Morocco

Jamie Dean
Jamie Dean

Jamie lives and works in North Carolina, where she covers the national political beat and other topics as news editor for WORLD. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.

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