Moroccan Christians greet the end of a decade of go …… | News and reports


For the first time in his life, Rachid Imounan voted and overthrew the Islamist-oriented Moroccan government.

He is not alone.

The turnout soared to 50% as the Liberals routed the Justice and Development Party (PJD), which has led the North African nation’s parliament for the past 10 years. Its share of the 395-seat legislature fell from 125 to 13.

The PJD finished eighth overall.

“We thank Jesus, the Islamists are gone,” said Imounan, a church planter who lives in the southern city of Agadir. “God answered our prayers, and now we have the government we wanted. “

Aziz Akhannouch of the National Rally of Independents (RNI) was sworn in as Prime Minister by King Mohamed VI on September 11, after his party won 102 seats. He is charged with forming a coalition government to guide Morocco through its current economic downturn.

A constitutional monarchy, Morocco has organized multiparty elections since its independence in 1956. But to avoid demonstrations during the Arab Spring, the king instituted reforms in 2011 and transferred important powers to the Prime Minister.

Mohamed VI however retains the last word on several government positions and is revered as “Commander of the Faithful” as a direct descendant of the founding prophet of Islam Mohammed.

Christians have described “liberal” parties as those that promote freedom, except challenges to the person and the position of the king, whose authority is respected by all political entities. The Islamists, meanwhile, wanted to impose Sharia law, cover women and remove pork and alcohol from neighborhood supermarkets.

“Akhannouch is a businessman. Whether you worship the sun or the moon, he doesn’t care, ”said Youssef Ahmed, one of the few second-generation Christians in Morocco.

“He will not persecute anyone.

Open Doors ranks Morocco No.27 on its global watch list of the 50 hardest countries to be a Christian. Proselytism, described as “shaking the faith of a Muslim”, can be punished with up to three years in prison.

But the Moroccan constitution guarantees freedom of thought and the right to practice religious affairs. And while Morocco only recognizes Islam and Judaism as recognized religions, it does not outlaw any sanctions for conversion, and believers say the security services largely leave them alone.

The PJD, however, asked for a list.

Moroccan Christians, estimated to number between 2,000 and 25,000, have approached the Islamist party to ask them to open their own churches. Instead, they were asked for the names of all the Christians in the country.

“They just wanted information,” Ahmed said.

Muslims can also be wary of the pursuit of Islamist governance.

Ahmad Raissouni, a spiritual leader of the PJD, recently congratulated the Taliban on their seizure of power, “full of hope, optimistic and delighted with the news from Afghanistan”.

And last May, then Prime Minister Saadeddine Othmani praised Hamas for its victory over “the Zionist entity,” following the exchange of rockets that Human Rights Watch described as clear. war crime.

Morocco normalized diplomatic relations with Israel six months earlier.

Othmani and the PJD formally backed the deal, which resulted in the United States recognizing Morocco’s claim to the disputed territory of Western Sahara. But the decision has divided the party and possibly alienated its electoral base.

Christians, however, note other reasons for this dramatic loss.

“They made a lot of promises and didn’t implement anything,” Imounan said. “But their politicians got rich, and everyone saw it.”

Economic issues dominated the campaign. At the height of the COVID-19 crisis, the Moroccan economy contracted by 15%. There is also a strong division in perception. Living in one of the region’s leading economies, 63% of Moroccans consider their situation to be good or very good. At the same time, 44% believe the government needs to create more job opportunities.

Akhannouch promised it. Ranked by Forbes as Africa’s 12th richest billionaire, many believed that a businessman could make a difference.

“He’s the best man for the job,” Ahmed said. “He is close to the king, and well known in Europe. Let’s give him time.

The RNI was founded in 1978 by the brother-in-law of King Hassan II at the time. Having a party close to the monarchy will increase cooperation, Imounan said, as Islamists bicker with the very government they were ostensibly in charge of.

But some analysts note that this is a critical time for Morocco, as the civilian government has often served as the king’s scapegoat.

“The monarchy overshadows the rest of the political players,” said Mohammed Masbah, head of an independent Moroccan think tank. “[It] takes the credit, and the government takes the blame.

Some analysts believe the RNI represents a throwback to the old elites.

Jack Wald, recently retired senior pastor of the International Church in Rabat, believes it will be difficult for the new government – or any government – to tackle corruption and level the playing field economic.

He deplores the general brain drain, because nepotism pushes educated elsewhere. He knows a devout Muslim with a doctorate in physics, working at the Moroccan equivalent of Walmart.

Wald also knows a talented Muslim graphic designer who lost his job offer to the relative of an adviser to the former king, who simply outsourced the work. He now works in the Gulf.

Morocco ranks 86th out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. It ranks 39th out of 40 countries in the Global Honesty Index. And 61 percent think corruption is widespread to a large or medium extent, although 72 percent think the government is trying to crack down.

Result: 31 percent want to emigrate.

“The main desire of most Moroccans is to leave the country,” said Wald. “The aristocracy must become a meritocracy, and until it does, Morocco will be in a muddle.”

Discrimination against Christians is only a small subset of the problem, he said. A recent anonymous poll of 32 believers echoed these questions. When asked if greater religious freedom would help them feel more confident in business and employment, 21 said yes.

And 12 said they were looking for opportunities to relocate abroad.

Wald rejected the survey’s thesis that greater religious freedom would translate into greater economic prosperity for Morocco. The number of Christians is just too small yet.

“I tell Moroccans to pray for Christian renewal,” he said, “because this will bring the values ​​that the nation needs. “

Christian sources, however, completely opposed the investigation.

Imounan said that although discrimination exists in the private sector – he lost his job as an accountant when he revealed his Christianity – it does not characterize government posts.

For Ahmed, livelihoods should not be mixed with religion.

“People buy the product, not the faith,” he said. “If Christians do their business honestly, they will gain more customers. “

But after the elections, optimism reigns.

As a new believer, Imounan paid no attention to politics. Once the Islamists began to show dominance, he felt no hope in the polls. Now his faith prompts him to pray for change in his country, and as a citizen, to exercise his electoral influence.

Ahmed rated Christian participation as an 8, on a scale of 10.

And although they anticipate a recovery for Morocco, the nature of the constitutionally Muslim nation tempers expectations for their own community.

“I don’t know if this government will give more freedom to Christians, but at least there will be a dialogue,” Imounan said.

“I am very optimistic,” Ahmed said.

“But the final decision has to come from the king.”

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