According to a news release from International Christian Concern (ICC), on Sept.17, the Moroccan newspaper Al Massae reported that Harder and Sanhi Russell were expelled from the country for “carrying out acts of proselytism” in the city of Kenitra.
ICC reported the article said that Harder, a Canadian citizen, was teaching Arabic at a local school, while Sanhi, of Korean descent, worked with women by teaching “literacy through the teaching of the Bible.” The article reported that the couple was supported by churches in the United States and France.
The next day, a Moroccan pastor informed ICC that he had been investigated by the Moroccan secret police for delivering school supplies to the village of Benguerir. The pastor distributed the supplies with the help of 15 foreigners working for a U.S. based organization.
ICC said during the distribution, two members of the secret police arrived to investigate. The pastor and the school director were questioned for more than an hour about the reasons for the Americans’ visit, and the content of the supplies.
The police said the investigation was a precaution to ensure that the group was not proselytizing.
“We’re gathering some information because you know that Morocco is a target of evangelic groups for proselytism,” ICC said they told the pastor. After the Americans left, the pastor was visited by a representative of the Interior Ministry and a police official who conducted further investigations.
ICC said the continued expulsions and investigations of Christian foreigners suspected of proselytizing follow substantial efforts made by human rights advocates to encourage Morocco to uphold its commitment to religious freedom. Morocco is bound to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
According to Article 18, “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.”
Aidan Clay, ICC regional manager for the Middle East, said in a news release, “The Moroccan government continues to pretend that it believes in religious tolerance, yet foreigners are still being deported from the country on allegations of proselytizing without due process. Even more worrisome are the rights being denied to the national Moroccan church. Every Moroccan should have the right to practice the religion of their choice freely.”
Clay continued, “Yet many Moroccan Christians are terrified to gather for worship services in fear that they will be investigated and associated with western Christians. The very government that claims to protect its Christian minority is, on the contrary, what Moroccan Christians fear most.”
ICC is a Washington-DC based human rights organization that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide.
For more information go to www.persecution.org