Pope visit to Morocco: Encouraging Islam-Christian dialogue

cq5dam.thumbnail.cropped.750.422The Archbishop of Rabat writes a letter to the people of Morocco on Tuesday confirming the Pope’s March 2019 visit, one which he hopes will expand and encourage interreligious Islam-Christian dialogue.

By Francesca Merlo

In Tuesday’s letter to his “Dear Christian brothers and sisters”, Rabat’s Archbishop, Cristóbal López, reiterates the Holy See Press Office’s announcement that Pope Francis will be visiting Morocco from the 30th to the 31st of March 2019. Archbishop López highlights that there are many Christians in Morocco who are “passing through, on their difficult migration, towards Europe”.

Memories of love and hope

He recalls the 1985 visit of Pope Saint John Paul II, a memory which he says is “still alive”, and a visit, which he says brought “great hope, love and blessings” to the people and the Catholic Church in Morocco.

FULL ARTICLE FROM VATICAN NEWS 

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Morocco: Model Of Moderate Islam And Intercultural Dialogue – Analysis

Since tMKingSince the advent of the unfortunate events of 9/11 in New York in 2001, Islam has, duly, become an easy target for Western attacks and, as a result, Islamophobia has increased in intensity and scope and has, consequently, even turned into a kind of religion for Muslim-haters, especially those who believe, wrongly, that Islam is an insidious force and subliminal belief of hate, destruction and backwardness.

As such, today, regrettably, Islam is equated with violence, with hatred, with terrorism, with death etc., bearing in mind that those so-called Muslims who opted for extremism, for political reasons and gains, are a handful and their motives are very suspicious, secretive and totally criminal.

Indeed, such dangerous and lethal groups like: al-Qaeda, ISIS, and associated dormant cells and lone wolves, etc. can in no way represent 1.5 billion peace-loving Muslims around the globe and speak in their name, at all. But, alas, these inhuman and violent so-called Muslims have triggered  much hatred in the West towards Islam, in general. Indeed, Trump, as a US presidential candidate, vilified Muslims, at will, and as a president he signed the so-called Muslim ban, barring the citizens of some Muslim countries from entering the US.

FULL ARTICLE FROM EUROASIA REVIEW 

The Female Quran Experts Fighting Radical Islam in Morocco

lead_960“The women scholars here are even more important than men.”

Morocco is in a region vulnerable to terrorist recruitment, but it hasn’t had a significant attack on its own soil since 2011, when terrorists bombed a Marrakesh café. Yet ethnic Moroccans have been at the center of ISIS attacks in Europe. The only alleged survivor of the 2015 Paris rampage is a Frenchman of Moroccan origin; his trial began last week. The men behind the Brussels airport and tram bombings that happened months later were also ethnic Moroccans. The suspected driver of the van that mowed down shoppers in Barcelona was Moroccan-born.

Some 1,600 Moroccans are thought to have joined extremist groups, mainly ISIS, since 2012, with some 300 still fighting with ISIS, according to Moroccan Interior Ministry figures. Although these figures are low compared to, say, Tunisia’s—some 7,000 Tunisians joined the group over the same period—the death toll in Europe has brought into focus the need for prevention and Morocco has come to play an outsized role in the debate over how, exactly, young people can be stopped from embracing radical Islam.

It’s one of many countries around the world experimenting with various “countering violent extremism” (CVE) or de-radicalization programs. As Maddy Crowell noted in The Atlantic, “Germany, Britain, and Belgium have developed programs that focus on further integrating radicals into their community. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, focuses on finding jobs and wives for recruited jihadists.” But programs that reach people once they’ve already been radicalized might come too late. “The most effective kind of rehabilitation and reintegration is the rehab and reintegration that doesn’t have to happen, because the person was afforded an off-ramp before they got to the point of no return,” Nathan Sales, the coordinator for counterterrorism at the U.S. State Department, told me. “What does that look like? It looks like early intervention and not necessarily and maybe not ideally by government officials.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE ATLANTIC 

Rabat’s ‘American Peace Caravan’ Builds Interfaith Bridges to Curb Extremism, Islamophobia

Interfaith-Religious-Leaders-Fight-Extremism-Through-Dialogue-in-Rabat-‘Peace-Caravan_-640x426Rabat – As anti-Muslim sentiment appeared to have increased across the world, the agenda of the second edition of the American Peace Caravan has focused on new initiatives intended to dampen Islamophopia and extremism.

The event, which took place from October 24 to 26 in Rabat, aimed to build a bridge of co-existence between religions. The conference participants wanted to find concrete ways to allow Jews, Christians, and Muslims to cooperate more as a collective of ethical communities rather than ideologically-drive self-interested lobbies, according to a statement issued by the organizers.

The conference reunited imams, rabbis, and pastors from 20 countries, with the view to build peace by advancing human dignity and the common good.

The religious leaders renewed their vows to the fight against extremism and religious violence through dialogue and respect among all religions.

The second edition of the conference also highlighted a set of recommendations to eradicate Islamophobia, which was the result of a “clear lack of leadership,” according to a statement by the organizers.

The event, which was held in cooperation with the Forum for Peace Organization (FFP), took place at the headquarters of Morocco’s Ministry of Religious Endowments and Islamic Affairs.

The agenda of the three-day symposium included several workshops and discussions on different topics, including mutual vision amongst co-religionists and their impact on peace, the role of religion in public life and challenges facing co-existence and opportunities to enhance it.

The FFP statement has also praised Morocco for hosting “graciously” the event under the patronage of King Mohammed VI.

Speaking the opening session of the event’s second, Moroccan Minister of Religious Endowments and Islamic Affairs, Ahmed Taoufiq, and President of the Forum for Peace Organization, Sheikh Abdallah Bin Bayyah, stressed the importance of religious leaders in espousing the values of peace and in the protection of minority rights.

FULL ARTICLE FROM MORROCO WORLD NEWS 

For Jews and Muslims of Morocco, a Supportive Relationship Built on a Complex History

moroccoMARRAKECH, Morocco — To an outsider, nothing seemed normal about this night, as Muslims were welcomed by the Jewish community to celebrate Ramadan at their synagogue, the members of the two faiths meeting in stark contrast when set against the religious conflicts that plague the region.

But to the Jews and Muslims of Marrakech, this was a Ramadan tradition, as 100 of them gathered at sunset for Iftar, the dinner that breaks the daily fast during the Muslim holy month.

Before the Muslims could eat, however, first they had to pray. Here, they did so while standing before the ark that holds the sacred Torah scrolls. The Muslim men bowed their heads and knelt down on their knees in chants of “Allahu Akbar,” meaning, “God is the greatest.”

To an American onlooker, this scene in late June seemed earth-shatteringly out of the ordinary. But to the Muslims and Jews gathered here, it was a reminder of the 2,000-year-old ties that bind their communities together.

Image: Muslim men pray before the Iftar
Before the Iftar, Muslim men pray in at the Synagogue Beth El in Marrakech while standing before the ark that holds the sacred Torah scrolls on June 18, 2017. Yardena Schwartz / for NBC News

Today, Jews account for less than 3,000 of Morocco’s 35 million residents — a small fraction of the nearly 300,000 who lived here before the establishment of Israel in 1948. Still, that tiny figure makes Morocco home to the largest Jewish population in the Arab world. And unlike other Arab countries, which essentially expelled their Jewish communities around the time of Israel’s establishment, the Jews of Morocco were not forced out when Israel declared its independence.

FULL ARTICLE FROM NBC NEWS

CHRISTIANS, MUSLIMS, JEWS BREAK BREAD IN INTERFAITH MOROCCO INITIATIVE

Morocco_600_400_90

When Moroccan students got together to explore the rich cultural legacy the Jewish community contributed to the North African country, they named their association Mimouna, the name of a Moroccan Jewish tradition which marks the end of Passover with inviting Muslim neighbors for shared meals.

They never guessed they’d end up creating such meals themselves.

Together with the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) and Jeunesse Chabad Maroc the students provided 1,500 needy Muslim families with meals in Marrakesh to help them celebrate Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan. The collaboration also included a festive interfaith dinner at the Slat al Azama synagogue in the Jewish quarter of Marrakech.

IFCJ Vice president Yael Eckstein was present at the event and stated that, since WWII, Morocco had set an example among North African societies for its treatment of Jews. She said she is honored to stand with the people of Morocco.

This is not the only example of the children of Abraham coming together around the dinner table this time of year.

In Cairo, Copts, who comprise the largest Christian minority in the Middle East, had set up tables outside their homes and invited Christians and Muslims alike to enjoy a meal as the sun sets and fasting Muslims are able to eat and drink.

Dawoud Riyad, who is Coptic, set up the tables near his Cairo home and invited Tarek Ali, a local resident, to celebrate together.

“They invited me and my kinds, and I was surprised”, said Ali, “with no difference between sheikhs, Christians, or Muslims.”

“We’re all brothers and friends”, said Riyad and pointed to another neighbor, “I’ve raised this man’s son (alongside my own son) and he’s Muslim.”