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Morocco expels Christian evangelists

Foster parents deported in move that appears to be tough new stance on foreign Christians.

Herman and Jettie Boonstra with their 8 foster children. Both Boonstras were deported back to the Netherlands Monday and they were forced to leave the children behind in the care of Moroccan authorities. (courtesy Village of Hope)

RABAT, Morocco — For 10 years, foreign Christians ran an orphanage called Village of Hope on the slopes of Morocco’s Middle Atlas Mountains, taking in abandoned Moroccan children and raising them in their homes.

But it took just a few hours Monday evening for Moroccan authorities to dissolve those foster families. Police gathered the 16 foreign volunteers and their biological children in a conference room and told them they had to leave the country immediately. Across the parking lot, 33 Moroccan children learned they would stay behind.

“It will be burned in my memory forever,” said Chris Broadbent, a New Zealander who worked as an administrator at the orphanage. “These kids just screamed across the car park to their parents to ask them if it was true. It was just chaos and so distressing, so terrible. I’ve never seen or experienced anything like it.”

Broadbent said Moroccan authorities took over the Village of Hope facility on Monday, but it is not yet clear whether the children will stay there or be sent somewhere else.

Morocco’s Interior Ministry claims the group “exploited some families' poverty and targeted their minor children,” violating rules on guardianship and breaking Morocco’s laws against proselytizing to Muslims.

Foreign Christian leaders in Morocco say the deportations are part of a country-wide campaign that signals a tough new stance against foreign evangelists who had been tolerated here for years.

Broadbent said the staff never tried to convert anyone, and maintained the orphanage had followed the same policies since it opened a decade ago: The children learned the Quran in school, but were raised by Christian parents.

“We were we looking after them, because nobody else would,” Broadbent said. “For 10 years they have openly, knowingly allowed us to do that and they never said we were breaking the law.”

They are not the only foreign evangelists to suddenly find themselves on the wrong side of the Moroccan government. A western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said authorities placed several dozen or more on a list for deportation.

In addition to orphanage volunteers approximately 10 other foreign Christians accused of proselytizing were deported over the weekend from cities across the country, pastors and Christian aid groups said.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/morocco/100311/morocco-expels-christian-missionaries