WASHINGTON, DC (ANS) -- Twenty-three foreigners have been notified of expulsion from Morocco since May 10, marking a second wave of Christian deportations from the country, according to International Christian Concern (ICC).
A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Morocco in an interview with ICC said, "We are very concerned about this. While there were fewer Americans in this round than there were in the first round of this in early March, we're still following it very closely, and we have expressed concern, as have other diplomatic missions here, to the Moroccan authorities about this."
ICC has learned that the recent notifications of expulsion are officially attributed to proselytizing, which is illegal under Moroccan law.
ICC explained in a media update that earlier this year, the enforcement of anti-proselytizing laws resulted in the deportations of approximately 40 U.S. citizens and many other foreign expatriates from Morocco. However, Moroccan authorities have refused to explain the charges.
"[The Moroccan government] has been very cagy about really giving any information to people, which has been disturbing," said the U.S. Embassy spokesman. "But we understand it's all based on alleged proselytizing."
The U.S. Embassy confirmed that among those who have received notice of expulsion is a U.S. citizen. According to Moroccan Christian advocates in the country, the list of deportees also includes citizens from the United Kingdom, France, Switzerland, Spain, the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Guatemala, Columbia and Korea.
ICC goes on to say that the deportation of foreigners has also affected the national Moroccan church.
A pastor near Marrakech, who asked to remain anonymous, said: "We have stopped all worship activity. We are afraid that they will attack us if we are in meetings, so there is no meeting. We think the next step may be against Moroccans. Maybe they will find accusations against us or they may raid the meeting to arrest people."
ICC says these expulsions have caused concern in the U.S. Congress, which will be holding a hearing on June 17 to further examine the issue.
Congressman Frank Wolf, a leader of protecting religious freedom, stated, "I call on the government of Morocco to uphold its commitment to the principles of religious tolerance and freedom, that for so long, made it a model of tolerance and modernity in the Arab world."
Aidan Clay, ICC regional manager for the Middle East, said: "Laws against proselytizing are again being enforced in order to ensure that Moroccan Muslims do not convert to Christianity or to other religions, and to preserve Morocco as a majority Islamic state. What on the surface appears to be anti-proselytizing laws, are in actuality laws against religious conversion -- no Muslim will convert to another religion if they are prevented from hearing about other religions. This directly violates the fundamental human right of religious freedom -- the ability to embrace the religion of one's choice.
"The recent deportation of Christian foreigners shows Morocco's blatant refusal to adhere to the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. The United States government and the international community must hold Morocco accountable for their actions and demand that the Moroccan government uphold international religious freedom laws."
International Christian Concern is a Washington, D.C.-based human rights organization that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide. ICC provides awareness, advocacy and assistance to the worldwide persecuted church. For additional information or for an interview, contact ICC at 800-422-5441.
Publication date: May 20, 2010