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2021 WORLD WATCH LIST #27

MOROCCO

Country rank

27

Persecution score

67.47

Last year’s rank

26

Region

Middle East  North Africa

Persecution Type

Islamic oppression (Strong), Dictatorial paranoia (Medium)

Persecution Level

Very High

Population

37,071,000

Christians

31,500 (0.1%) Data source: Johnson T M and Zurlo G A, eds., World Christian Database (Leiden/Boston: Brill, accessed February 2020).

Main Religion

Islam

Government

Parliamentary constitutional monarchy

Leader

King Mohammed VI

 

Open Doors supports the persecuted church in North Africa through:
• Training
• Literature distribution
• Socio-economic development

ABOUT MOROCCO

What does persecution look like in Morocco?

The average pressure on Christians in Morocco remains high. And for converts from Islam, the pressure is even higher. They can lose their inheritance rights or even custody of their children. 

Converts face opposition from family members, who do not want them to practice their new faith publicly—often, this means new Christians are not allowed to be baptized, married or buried in a church or Christian ceremony. Particularly in rural areas, these followers of Jesus also face significant hostility from their local community and government. 

The Moroccan penal code also presents issues for Moroccan Christians. According to the code, it is a criminal act to “shake the faith of a Muslim.” Obviously, this greatly depends on contextual interpretation, but practically it means it is very difficult for Christians to share their faith and chokes the ability of churches to reach their community. Additionally, Christian advocates have been targeted for violent attack by Islamic extremists.  

How women experience persecution

Although women’s rights in Morocco have developed over the last 15 years, which has given women more legal equality, females in Morocco remain in a generally less advantageous position than men. As a result, Moroccan women have less freedom than men and are expected to be more bound to the household—especially in rural areas.

Female converts to Christianity from Islam are most at risk within the domestic environment. Persecution of female converts lies in the ability of parents and brothers to control, oppress and, ultimately, force women to leave the family. Conversion from Islam is socially unacceptable and places shame on the girl as a rebel against society. 

Fear of scandal over a daughter’s conversion often means female converts are held in their homes and later married by their families in the belief that marriage will bring her back to Islam. Sometimes, the pressure is so intense that the girl relents and agrees to a marriage to someone who does not share her faith. If a female convert is already married, many women are pressured and threatened with divorce by their husbands after they discover their Christian faith. Some have been forced to divorce and give up their children.

Finally, rape, or the threat of rape, is a taboo area socially associated with a woman’s personal honor. The high stigma makes rape a powerful tool for religious coercion. This is the case both for Moroccan women and for the numerous female sub-Saharan migrants in Morocco, of whom a proportion are Christian. Their rape is not just motivated by exploitation but also by religious intolerance. 

How men experience persecution

Christian male converts most often face expulsion from their families, educational discrimination, issues related to work and threats of death. They are also far more likely than women to be targeted for government interrogation, beatings or imprisonment. However, the severity of the backlash after conversion depends on their social position and political standing within a Christian’s community.   

In the domestic realm, male converts are perceived to bring shame upon their families by leaving Islam and are therefore regularly ostracized upon conversion. If male converts are still young and living with their parents, they might lose their family’s financial support. If the man is already married, then he risks abandonment by his wife, whose family will also pressure the couple and take back their daughter. A convert can, in practice, be deprived of his inheritance.

Employment also is a key pressure point for men because they are usually the breadwinners in their families; their conversion may cause them to lose their jobs. Conversely, Christians are sometimes accused of converting for financial gain, because Christianity is associated with opulent Western society.

Every year, there are reports of a handful of Christian men arrested for nothing more than having a Bible in their possession or for discussing Christian faith with a Muslim. Fines and physical violence can accompany the harassment. 

What has changed this year?

Morocco fell one rank on the 2021 World Watch List from the 2020 List. However, persecution actually rose a bit, mostly because of increased pressure in family, community and church life. Violence decreased slightly, but not enough to significantly alter the outlook for Christians in this North African nation.  

Who is most vulnerable to persecution?

People who follow Jesus after coming from Islam face the greatest danger in Morocco—including pressure from family, community and government. However, the level of this persecution and discrimination may vary from area to area. For this reason, converts choose to live in urban areas, where it is easier to escape from the more conservative Islamic culture of the rural areas.  

How can I help Christians in Morocco?

What does Open Doors do to help Christians in Morocco?

In cooperation with local partners and churches, Open Doors supports the church in North Africa in a variety of ways. Through partners, Open Doors provides training, Christian literature distribution, microloans, follow-up ministry via different media channels and advocacy training to stand up for the rights of Christians. Open Doors also raises prayer support for believers in Morocco. 

Your gift today will show our persecuted brothers and sisters in Morocco, and other countries in the World Watch List they are loved and remembered by you.

Pray

-Pray for unity in the Moroccan church. Believers are scattered around the country and don’t know each other well. Special efforts need to be made to be united.

-Pray for children in local schools. Islam is taught in many different subjects at school. Christian children say this is confusing, as they hear different teaching at home. Pray they will not feel confused, but that they will deeply know the truth.

-Pray for Christians involved in social work. They are a great example of taking care of the vulnerable in society and being a testimony in society. Pray for God to give people vision for how to be involved in this work.

-Pray for Christian converts from Islam in Morocco. Pray they will be protected from harm or discrimination from their families, and that they will be able to walk openly with Jesus. 

A PRAYER FOR MOROCCO

O Lord, we pray for the Christians of Morocco. We ask that You would sustain them, especially those who risk so much to follow You. We pray especially for people who have left Islam to proclaim Jesus as Lord. Will you protect and preserve them, and give them strength to walk with You? We ask all these things through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever, Amen.