“People don’t usually like our church right away. For some people there is too much music, and for others there is not enough. For some people there is too much noise and activity while others want more singing and dancing. Some people say the sermons are too intellectual, some people say they should be more profound. We won’t please everyone, because we will never be like their church in their home country. But for those who stick with us and decide to come back anyways, what they do find here is a close, welcoming family. We may have disagreements amongst ourselves, but people always feel a part of our family.”
This quote recently came from the General Minister and President of the Evangelical Church of Morocco during a meeting with church leaders of the Casablanca Parish where I live. I am still getting used to the incredible diversity of backgrounds and ways of doing things, but this little segment of a much longer discussion expressed my own impressions really well.
Morocco occupies a unique position in the world, standing at the intersection of the Middle East, Europe and Africa. Its majority Muslim population has seen an uptick in recent years of immigrants and migrants from sub-Saharan Africa either coming to the country to continue their education, find work, or continue north into Europe, and many of them come from a Christian background. This demographic shift and diversity of background is evident nowhere more than it is within the Church.
Beyond the diversity within the Church, it is essential that it engage and work with the incredible diversity outside of it. This happens both on an institutional and a personal level.
The Church is involved in quite a bit of ecumenical work, including a brand new theological institute in Morocco’s capital of Rabat. The institute is a collaboration between Morocco’s Protestants (the Evangelical Church in Morocco is home to many different persuasions and denominations, and is the only recognized Protestant presence in the country) and the Catholic Diocese, and offers courses taught by professors from Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, and Jewish backgrounds.
On a personal level, each foreign church member (the vast majority) has been welcomed into this country and interacts with its citizens on a daily basis at school, work, or simply in markets stores, and restaurants.
I recently had the pleasure of watching a friendly soccer tournament in Casablanca between three teams: the local Catholic Church, our local Protestant church, and a Muslim team of Moroccan citizens. Despite the division of teams along religious lines, everyone was just there to make friends and have a good time. Differences were not seen as an obstacle.
This is not true in all areas of life, and as is unfortunately the case around the world the migrant and refugee populations of this country often suffer substantially. But the kinds of active dialogue and fellowship sought by the Evangelical Church of Morocco can bridge gaps and set the stage for change to come.
"Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt.” (Exodus 22:21)
Tyler Reeve serves as a Global Mission Intern with the Evangelical Church in Morocco. His primary responsibility is organizing and facilitating communications. His appointment is supported by Week of Compassion, Our Churches Wider Mission, Disciples Mission Fund and your special gifts.