Former National Association of Evangelicals official Richard Cizik asked evangelicals to “have serious religious dialogue with Muslims” after a meeting with Moroccan dignitaries Monday at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
Cizik, who is co-founder of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, also called Morocco “an excellent partner” with a “long history of religious tolerance, interfaith outreach, and friendship with America.”
“With the fall of the Soviet Union, there has been an effort to make Muslims here and abroad into the new ‘evil empire,’” Cizik said. “This is not only a huge mistake on the strategic level – playing right into the hands of terrorists – but a violation of biblical ethics.”
Throughout the meeting, delegates emphasized inter-religious dialogue as being the key toward reconciling differences between Islam and Christianity.
“I believe many of the problems between Christians and Muslims are more artificial than real, and suffer from lack of discussion about them.” commented Driss Alaoui-Mdaghri, who had previously held four different cabinet positions in the Moroccan government.
Alaoui-Mdaghri was joined by Nourredine Sefiani, former Moroccan ambassador to Russia; Larbi Belarbi, a successful Moroccan businessmen; and Aziz Mekouar, current Moroccan ambassador to the United States.
Morocco remains a strategic military and trade ally to the United States. Nonetheless, the North African nation’s stance on religious freedom came into question on Capital Hill in light of recent arrests of local Christians and expulsion of foreign aid workers.
Since last March, some 100 foreign aid workers have been deported. The North African nation maintains that those expelled had been observed proselytizing to Muslims, which is illegal under Moroccan law.
Nonetheless, charges of proselytism have been vehemently denied by scores of deportees -- some of whom had been working in Morocco for no less than a decade and are familiar with the nation’s laws.
Village of Hope (VOH), an orphanage that been legally registered in Morocco since 2002, was forced to abandon 33 children after its owners were expelled from the country. In June 2010, VOH coworkers Eddie and Lynn Padilla were invited to testify at a Congressional hearing after having to leave behind two foster children.
Also in 2010, paramilitary officers of the Moroccan security services had arrested 18 local believers in the city of Amizmiz, situated in the nation’s southern region.