February 26, 2005


Putting faith in people (Amy Doolittle, 2/23/05, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

On the desert sweeps of Morocco, a cross-cultural conversation is well under way. Evangelical Christians, long viewed as hostile to Islam and its followers, actively are participating in conversations with the Moroccan government, businesses and community leaders.

The goal is to develop understanding between the two very different perspectives.

Friendship Caravan is the flagship organization for this conversation. Founded by photojournalist Michael Kirtley after the September 11 attacks, it is now headlining an unprecedented effort focused on helping American evangelicals and Moroccan Muslims understand each other.

But it wasn't evangelicals -- eager to spread the Gospel and proselytize the nonbelievers -- who first pursued the relationship, says Mr. Kirtley; it was the Moroccan government. [...]

Morocco's citizens are almost entirely Muslim. Like most Muslim societies, the country maintains laws restricting evangelism. Evangelicals had reason to be surprised when their delegation experienced a warm welcome in Morocco, both from the government and the people.

"The delegation came back with the willingness on the part of the Moroccan government to allow ... Christianity in that county," Mr. Cizik says. "In everyone's estimation it's a breakthrough of sorts. It's never been done before. We see it now as we saw it before -- as an overture by the Moroccan government not to be ignored."

Despite what have been seen in the past as insurmountable differences between Christian and Muslim societies, says Mr. Kirtley, Moroccan Muslims have begun to recognize the common ground the two groups hold.

"On both sides there is a feeling of a lot of common ground, especially with the evangelical Christians because Morocco is a conservative society," Mr. Kirtley says. "When Christians and Moroccans get together, they find things they have in common [such as] feelings against abortion, gay marriage, family and faith in terms of public life. I think this is one of the reasons that the two groups have hit it off so well."

Behind Morocco's pursuit of friendship, says evangelical leader Josh McDowell, is the desire for peace.

"They want sincere, healthy relationships with evangelical Christians. They believe as I do that the greater the understanding of people of faiths of each other, the greater chance of peace in the world," Mr. McDowell says.

One irony of the last several years is that on 9-11 King Mohamed VI's Morocco was one of the most reform-minded Arab nations and perhaps our best ally in the Islamic world. But now he and they have some catching up to do.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 26, 2005 8:06 PM

--Behind Morocco's pursuit of friendship, says evangelical leader Josh McDowell, is the desire for peace.--

and Andalusia.....

Posted by: Sandy P at February 26, 2005 8:12 PM

The popular legitimacy of the Moroccan throne is derived from the legend that they are direct descendants of Big Mo himself. They will not be high on the list of nations with true religious liberty.

However, they are not an oil producer so they need help from outside, so they are making overtures to the US Evangelical community and are going to establish full relations with Israel by year end. The leadership is smart enough to know that their future lies in relations with the US, not in the Dream Palace of the Arabs.

Posted by: Bart at February 27, 2005 6:49 AM