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Foster parents deported in move that appears to be tough new stance on foreign Christians.
Those expelled come from the Netherlands, Britain, the Congo, New Zealand, South Africa, Brazil and the United States.
“We were disheartened and distressed to learn of the recent expulsion by the Moroccan Government of a number of foreigners, including numerous Americans, who had been legally residing in Morocco,” U.S. Ambassador Samuel Kaplan said in a statement. “While we expect all American citizens in Morocco to respect Moroccan law, we hope to see meaningful improvements in the application of due process in such cases.”
U.S. embassy officials declined to confirm who or how many people would be expelled but said the number is likely to rise. Pastors who have lived in Morocco for years say the sheer quantity of deportations is unprecedented in recent years.
“It’s like going to sleep and waking up and all of the sudden you’re in a different country,” said Jack Wald, who has spent 10 years as pastor of Rabat International Church, a protestant congregation in the capital. “This is a change in policy from the top of the government.”
“In my nine years in Morocco, never,” said Pastor Jean-Luc Blanc, authorized by the government to preach to foreigners at the Evangelical Church of Morocco. “Each year there are one or two expulsions like this, but never so many at one time.”
But Moroccan Communication Minister Khalid Naciri maintains that the expulsions are neither new, nor limited to Christian missionaries.
“The Moroccan government today deals harshly with whoever allows themselves to manipulate the religion of the people,” Naciri said. He cited government crackdowns on radical Islamist groups and expulsions of Shi’a Muslims proselytizing in this largely Sunni country.
Still, many in the expatriate Christian community here are wondering who’s next. Police have interviewed children at another older orphanage, also run by Christian evangelists, a few miles from The Village of Hope.
“They asked 'Do you know the Quran?' and they quoted the Quran to them,” said Jim Pitts, a native Virginian, has worked at the orphanage for 51 years.
Pitts says his staff members have come only to do charitable work and have never tried to convert anyone. But he’s still unsure what the authorities will do.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen with us,” he said. “We’ll see.”