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Human Rights activists, university professors and jurists supported historic conference with representatives of the Christian, Jewish and Shia minorities in Rabat.
Representatives of Moroccan religious minorities celebrated their first public meeting in Rabat, where they presented a document in which they claim the protection of minorities and the development of the freedom of conscience and of belief in the country.
The event was organized in the headquarters of the Moroccan Association of Human Rights (AMDH in French), with the participation of representatives of the Christian, Jewish and Shia minorities, as well as rights activists, university professors and jurists.
According to the organisers, the pressures prior to the meeting caused some representatives of other religions to cancel their participation.
RELIGIOUS FREEDOM AND EQUALITY
The final statement has been defined as “cautious” by AFP. “It just analyses the situation, makes questions and looks for answers asking enlightened jurists”.
The statement points to the need of developing religious freedom and equality for all Moroccans, regardless of their creed.
On previous occasions, Christians have asked for the opening of non-Islamic places of worship, the celebration of their religious holidays, or the freedom to develop their faith in the public sphere or to register Christian names for their children.
The manifesto also commits religious minorities to create a common platform to give shape to a legal framework that allows them to progress with their claims.
“THE STATE SHOULD RESPECT”
The coordinator of the Moroccan Committee of religious minorities, Yawad Hamidi, commented that “the human rights excesses that these minorities suffer by the security services and some citizens are due to the lack of a law that guarantees their protection”.
“Freedom of speech, belief and conscience is a right that the state should respect. People should be able to believe in what they want to believe, as long as it does not violate the rights of others”, said Ahmed El Hayej, president of AMDH.
CHRISTIANS UNDER SOCIAL PRESSURE
Several Moroccan Christians participated in the meeting. Chuaib Fatihi, a Moroccan converted to Christianity, explained that the rejection he suffered from his environment forced him to practice his faith in hiding.
Another Moroccan Christian, Mohamed Said, added that he does not consider himself as a minority, but as “a Moroccan citizen who fights for his material and spiritual rights”. Said stressed that, after the Constitution of 2011 there has been some tolerance with the visibility that the religious minorities have started to have.
In this sense, Mohamed Akdid, a Moroccan converted to Shiism, recalled that before 2011 “the police approach that responds to a conservative mentality was the norm” when dealing with religious minorities.
According to Akdid, there are 8,000 Shiites in Morocco and he added that the Moroccan hostility to his confession is due to the conflict between Iran and the Persian Gulf countries.
Said said that his desire is to see freedom of creed reflected in the Constitution of the country in a not too distant future. “In my opinion, this congress is a beginning... a small step forward”, the Christian representative.
A PENDING SOCIAL DEBATE
The coordinator of the event believes that both the State and the society still have a long way to go regarding freedoms.
“The Moroccan state still puts up barriers when it comes to legal reforms concerning minorities”, Hamidi told AFP.
“There is a kind of fear of opening this door and having a discussion. Even civil society is still reluctant to speak freely about this issue”.
ISLAM IN MOROCCO AND OTHER FAITHS
Morocco is a Sunni country of Maleki rite. It has never tolerated conversions to Christianity, nor to the Shiite rite, which are prohibited in the country.
The country only admits the Jewish minority, established in its territory for centuries.
Altogether, religious minorities could represent close to 1% of the population.
Foreigners are allowed to practice the Christian faith, but proselytism is prosecuted with jail terms of up to three years.
Read more news about Christians in Morocco.