A 3-day high profile musical celebration will take place in Morroco, part of the Arab-Muslim world. Friendship Fest will feature 8-12 well-known Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) bands and 3-4 Contemporary and Traditional Moroccan music groups. The free event is anticipated to draw over 50,000 daily.
Three Christian leaders, Creation Fest co-founder, Harry Thomas, National Association of Evangelicals, Reverend Richard Cizik, and the National Clergy Council, Rev. Rob Schenck, have teamed up with Marrakech Wali (Governor) Mohamed Hassad and Regional President Abdelali Doumou to bring the world a highly anticipated cultural exchange between Muslims and Christians. Friendship Fest will take place in Morocco between May 6 to 8, 2005.
To be held in Marrakech, the "cultural capital of the Kingdom of Morocco," a major part of the event will be dialogues which are to take place simultaneously with the music festival, bringing together Christian and Muslim leaders from around the world. In addition, King Mohammed VI will participate.
Morocco is located in Northwest Africa south of Spain and was recently named the top-rated Arab country for democracy in a recent study by Economist magazine.
According NAE's press release, the goals of Friendship Fest are to make "use of the universal language of music to bridge cultures and make friends" and "to set a good example of religious tolerance by engaging in respectful dialogue." More importantly, it is "to show that Christians and Muslims can be friends and live together in peace."
In conjunction with the friendship aspect, another goal is to "combat terrorism by confronting stereotypes on both sides that lead to extremist rhetoric. The Moroccans repeatedly told the organizers that such an open display of Christian friendship would undercut those who deride Americans as arrogant and hating Muslims," stated Friendship Fest's official website.
"The story about how a 99% Muslim country came to propose this event is quite remarkable and worth reading," states NAE's website.
In late February of 2004, the three Christian leaders, Schenck, Thomas, and Cizik formed an evangelical delegation to research religious freedom and democratic reform in Morocco. A week later they were in Morocco meeting with top government and religious leaders including Prime Minister Driss Jettou. The Governor of Marrakech "hit it off well with Harry" and asked him to present a Human Rights award at an event that would be televised throughout Morocco, the Arab world, and even to France, in order to celebrate the achievements of women in front of Morocco elites. When giving the award, Thomas referred to Scripture and stated that those who work with the poor touch the face of God, to which the crowd then broke out in a three-minute standing ovation. "From then on, wherever Harry went people came up to him, saying, 'Thank you for talking about God. You were the only person on the program that did so" (Friendship Fest website).
This then was the point of contact for further friendly relations. Harry was invited by Marrakech Wali Mohamed Hassad to bring Christian music to Morocco as the most prominent component of an event to promote friendship with American Christians.
In early May, a production team was sent to scout for venues. Tim Landis says of the trip, I can honestly say that none of us will be the same. The love, acceptance and hospitality that was shown to us was more than we ever expected. We spent hours sharing our faith with our new Moroccan friends, festival specialist Saad and Moundir who in turn shared with us about the Arab world and their Muslim faith.
The Executive Producer will be the President of The Friendship Caravan, Michael Kirtley. The Moroccan Producer is the former director of the Fès Sacred Music Festival, Saad Zniber, and the American Producer is co-founder of Creation Festivals, Tim Landis.
Friendship Fest Morocco follows in the footsteps of ongoing efforts to promote Christian-Muslim dialogue begun more that a year ago by the National Association of Evangelicals under the guidance of Reverend Rich Cizik.
"Morocco was the first country to recognize the newly-independent USA and that it has the longest unbroken Treaty of Friendship with Washington, dating to 1786. In addition the United States has designated Morocco a major non-Nato ally in appreciation for Moroccos support for the global war on terror, and a free-trade agreement has been signed between the two nations." Morocco is safe for travel, states NAE, and encourages people to join with thousands of others in this event for friendship.
"This is truly a historic event that has the potential to affect world events. The goals of the event are to use the universal language of music to bridge cultures and make friends. It will set a good example of religious tolerance by engaging in respectful dialogue and by confronting stereotypes on both sides that lead to extremist rhetoric. By loving our neighbors as ourselves, Christians and Muslims can be friends and live together in peace," states NAE's website.