Christian workers expelled from Morocco

The Moroccan government has begun what amounts to an expulsion of all Christian missionaries. Considering that the speech of a Dutch politician said to be anti-Islamic, or a Swiss law to curtail the building of minarets, is the kind of thing that attracts extensive and often hyperbolic press coverage, one might expect that this new Moroccan policy might be worthy of notice. Alas, aside from a few blogs and a handful of New Zealand websites, this outrage has gone unremarked. My brother Robert Cella has some firsthand experience in missions work in Morocco. Here is the note he wrote me about the explusion:

The children’s home that rests on the hills outside of the town of Ain Leuh, Morocco has been a haven for the marginalized orphans of Morocco for nearly a half century. Founded in 1957 by two American women dedicated to caring for the abandoned children of Morocco, the Village of Hope, has been a beacon of hope and healing to the orphans for over half a century — until two days ago, when the hand of the Moroccan government turned against it.

In recent years the campus has provided homes and families for more that 30 orphaned children, placing them in the care of dedicated expatriate couples who have committed to raising each child to adulthood. Most couples and staff have come as Christians, looking to ease the pains of the broken social structure in Moroccan rural life. The couples act, in all senses of the word, as parents to these children, calling them sons and daughters and imparting to each their own last name. They have taken the children into their homes and raised them as their own — a true blessing as they would otherwise be placed in massive state-run orphanages. In addition to taking up these particular burdens as foster parents, the Village also provides numerous services to the local community. They provide free quality education to each child. They provide employment to many of Ain Leuh’s residents — teachers, tutors, cooks, nannies, construction workers, and workers in the apple orchards. They host annual events including a summer camp that brings in hundreds of local youth to learn basic skills, give exposure to English language basics, and play games.

I was lucky to be a part of the Village of Hope in the summer of 2005. The charming hillside community rises up from the vast valley that separates the Middle Atlas Mountains from the Low Atlas Mountains in the central part of the country. I recall my first weeks being surrounded by happy children, who would play in the newly built playground after their lessons, only to be called off to supper by their parents. The Village was a home to three core families then, each composed of about 10 kids and their parents. Throughout the summer I watched as these kids interacted with the only parents they had ever known. I recall now how the distinction between natural and real parents was nonexistent to those kids. I also recall the joy of being a part of their summer camp, shuttling local kids in a broken down Chevy Astro van, up and down windy roads with the overcrowded occupants singing loud songs in their native Arabic.

In recent days the news has come down that this charitable community, at the whim of Moroccan authorities, has been in effect shut down. The parents and all foreign-born workers have been expelled from the country, leaving children in the care of state authorities. Families have literally been rent asunder by the coercion of the state. It is an outrage to see this community, which has so faithfully filled gaps of the broken social structure, torn apart by bureaucratic caprice and the unjust fears from Islamic social pressures.

Contact the White House.

Contact the State Department.

Contact your Congressman and Senators.