It isn’t easy to define “religious freedom” in Morocco.
On the one hand, the Moroccan Constitution “guarantees the free exercise of worship for all”. Foreign Christian residents can attend officially recognised Catholic, Evangelical, Anglican or Orthodox churches, and Morocco’s 3,000 to 4,000 Jews generally go about their lives freely.
On the other hand, the law does not allow Morocco’s estimated 4,000 to 8,000 local Christians to attend the approved churches. And attempts “to undermine the faith of a Muslim or to convert him to another religion” can be punished by three months to six years in prison.
In situations like this, most Moroccan Christians adopt the view that “discretion is the better part of valour”! David, the Moroccan presenter of Worship in my Home on SAT-7, says some live as isolated, secret believers while others meet in fives or tens in people’s homes.
Fear is still the enemy of believers in Morocco”
Authorities rarely arrest them because they know Christians represent no danger to society, David says. Nevertheless, some believers attend meetings irregularly “for fear of reprisals from families and authorities. Fear is still the enemy of believers in Morocco,” he adds.
It is for these house churches that Worship in my Home, now in its sixth season, is designed.
Inviting the isolated
David explains, “We invite isolated Christians in North Africa to join us and, at the same time, we give an example of how to organise a simple worship occasion in people’s homes.”
Although the series is filmed in Paris, its set resembles a comfortable North African home. Over 13 episodes, David is joined by guests and a musician leading worship in a traditional style.
In a simple, conversational format, the programme addresses the spiritual and wider cries of its North African viewers.
“We talk about our Lord Jesus and the quality of life he gives,” David says. “We contrast the peace our Lord gives and the peace the world gives, and we explain the difference between faith and religion.
“In the latest series, we are exploring true worship and the character of God as Father, the meaning of ‘God is love’, what does it mean that ‘God is my refuge’? what is ‘the Kingdom of God and his righteousness’? who is the Holy Spirit? and we consider Jesus’ resurrection and His Lordship over the world.”
Viewers also learn about prayer (Does God listen? How do I know?); about healing, and about the authority of the Bible. Issues of war and terrorism and the everyday realities of high unemployment, poverty, poor healthcare and limited freedom – problems that gave rise to large-scale protests in 2011 and 2012 – aren’t ignored either.
With respect to these challenges, “We first of all help our audience understand real faith and the power of prayer and worship,” David explains. “We also offer them our friendship and caring. We give them examples of the providence and intervention of God in the lives of men and women in the Bible and in everyday life today. We depend totally on the Lord to bless our viewers and strengthen them in faith, hope and love for His name.”
David says the content and questions covered in the series are shaped by the feedback the team receives from viewers. “Their comments help my team and me to research better and relevant answers. For instance, one asked me a few weeks ago: ‘When Jesus was telling His disciples about His return, if He is the Son of the Almighty God, why did He say that He does not know the day of His return, not even the angels, but God alone knows it?’ Another said: ‘If God is love, why does He let people kill each other in Syria, Iraq and Sudan? Why is there injustice and famine?’”
The faith that can’t be hidden
As North Africans grow in their relationship with Christ, others notice even if they are careful who they speak to! David recalled a recent message from one Moroccan man. “In the beginning of my faith I did not want anyone to know that I am Christian,” he wrote. “But after the birth of my baby, everyone was shocked that I did not put the Quran under his pillow. I ended up for the first time saying respectfully to my parents that I am Christian. They were not mad at me, but were more worried about the reactions of neighbours to me being a follower of the Lord Jesus.”
An Algerian viewer explained that big changes in her attitudes had prompted questions from her family and old friends. They were amazed as they knew her as an unstable person, and asked what had happened. She told David: “Brother, there are situations where you cannot hide any longer because it is not your words but your acts that are speaking!” She added: “Praise the Lord that fear disappears when you open your mouth to confess the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Another woman described her husband’s reaction when she first suggested he watch Worship in my Home with her. “He got mad at me and changed the channel.” But the next day, when she renewed the invitation several times, he accepted. “Now they’re both in faith!” David said.
Sharing hope in Morocco
With a median age of 29, Morocco, like other North African countries, has a young population. It experienced a wave of protests calling for greater social justice, healthcare and freedoms during 2011-2012. Modest parliamentary reforms and a monarchy supported by strong security institutions have maintained stability.
SAT-7 produces a growing number of programmes for Morocco and neighbouring North African countries. Those in Moroccan dialect include Home Church, My Daughter and I (a fast-moving and entertaining programme modelling positive family relationships), and The Mask – short, thought-provoking messages for youth that use comedy and biblical wisdom to address issues and beliefs that shape everyday life.