• NORTH AFRICA \ Mar 12, 2005
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    Why Moroccans are converting to Christianity?
Why Moroccans are converting to Christianity?

When a country's press goes to much trouble to write about a tiny minority, it is necessary to analyse the reasons which led them to do so because such reasons cannot be completely innocent,? said minister Jean Luc Blanc in a long article published Tuesday on the Moroccan daily ?Le Matin du Sahara et du Maghreb.?

The minister accused the press of making ?amalgams between the US policy and the Protestant Church,? and ?amplifying real but insignificant phenomena, making up all the ingredients of stigmatization.?

He added that the main role of the Church in Morocco is to help the Protestant Christians living in Morocco, among them many Sub Saharans studying in Morocco.

Blanc also criticised ?a rumour quickly taken over by the media, and according to which massive numbers of Moroccans converted to Christianity under the influence of Anglo-Saxon, protestant missionaries.?

This letter came a short time after the publication of a cover story on Moroccan converts to Protestantism by the Moroccan magazine ?Le Journal,? which triggered a wave of similar articles both in Morocco and abroad.

This cover story, which quoted other publications such as the French magazine ?Le Nouvel Observateur,? described an active conversion campaign led by Protestant missionaries ? many of them from the US - who went as far as distributing ?conversion kits? to Moroccans living abroad on the way back to Morocco for the holidays.

The article also explained that these missionaries were backed by powerful messianic churches belonging to the American Bible Belt, close to George W. Bush. It also criticized the local authorities for their behaviour towards them, adding that ?Liberal activists na?vely rub shoulders with them, and educative and welfare associations welcome their emissaries and donators.?

Even more, several articles said that ?they support the Bush policy and the existence of Israel is [considered as] justified,? - a worrying accusation in Morocco where the Palestinian cause triggers strong feelings among the population.

Unsurprisingly, this issue led even the Istiqlal MP Abdelhamid Aouad to question the Minister of Habous and Islamic Affairs Ahmed Toufiq. ?Their objective is to convert 10% of the Moroccan population by 2020,? said Aouad about Protestant missionaries.

For the moment, it is still difficult to have a precise idea of the phenomenon of Muslims' conversion to Protestantism in Morocco: figures vary widely depending on newspapers. While some say that there are as little as 800 Moroccan Protestants and 150 missionaries in the country, others consider there are 40,000 converts and 200 to 300 missionaries.

One year after the so-called ?Satanists' affair? in which a group of youngsters were tried for their ?gothic? tastes - then released, extra-caution is more than necessary with this theme, especially as even 40,000 would be only a tiny minority in a total population of 29 million.

However, if it did prove true that increasing numbers of Moroccans are converting to Protestantism, this could mean that more and more Muslims are taking their distances with their own religion - could this be the result of both Eastern and Western media's handling of Islam?