Morocco: The Atlas Lions

By: Wenses Salomon Pool Albornoz

Morocco is a country in the African continent distinguished by Berber, Arab and European cultural influences.

In the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, the Moroccan national team seeks to live up to its nickname, the “Atlas Lions.” They share Group F with Belgium, Canada, and Croatia. The Moroccan team is named after the Atlas or Barbary lion, a now-extinct subspecies of lion that originated in North Africa. Morocco has participated in 6 World Cups (1970, 1986, 1994, 1998, 2018 and 2022), exhibiting their best performance at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, where it managed to become the first Arab and African country to win a World Cup match.

Moroccan cities have various events and celebrations that perfectly illustrate their traditions, usually held during famous Mousses and festivals. The Tan-Tan festival is a don’t-miss attraction and has been part of the cultural heritage of humanity since 2008. Other festivals include the Cherry Festival in Sufro, the Mousse of the Roses in Kalan Moruna, or the festival of the Ganosa in Essaouira. The music of the Ganosa takes one on a spiritual and cultural journey, while Gnawa music, inscribed in 2019 by UNESCO, tells the story of sub-Saharan African slaves. Songs and dances are also rituals adopted by the Ganosas.

Christianity in Morocco surged in Roman times, practiced mainly by Berber Christians. Before its independence, Morocco was home to half a million European Christian settlers. During the French protectorate in the country, the government became the main Christian persecutor. Today, Bible distribution and missionary activity are not allowed in the country. It’s difficult to obtain a Bible, but believers access the Scriptures through creative methods, such as digital files on SD cards that they can use on their cell phones and tablets.

Any attempt to induce the conversion of a Muslim is illegal. According to Article 220 of the Moroccan Penal Code, anyone who tries to “shake the faith of a Muslim or convert him to another religion” incurs a 3- to 6-month prison sentence and a fine of €15 to €80. Often, family, friends and communities also persecute Christian converts. As a result, Christians find it difficult to find true camaraderie. Underground church networks have developed, nonetheless.

Undoubtedly, reaching Morocco for Christ will be a difficult task, and new strategies must be embraced for the gospel to be spread in this country. Pray for the persecuted brothers and sisters there, and that God will send more courageous missionaries to proclaim the gospel in Morocco.

Sources consulted:

Team photo credit: Kevin R. Yu

Cultural photo credit: Alex Schmidt

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