For several decades, the Churches of Morocco have been revitalized by welcoming sub-Saharan faithful. What are their profiles?
Sophie Bava : Some are students who choose to come to Morocco to do part of their studies, others are migrants on their way to Europe. These sub-Saharan migrations increased from the 1980s, pushed by the migration policy of Schengen: the externalization of the borders of the European Union encourages them to settle more permanently in the countries of the Maghreb. Little by little, the countries of transit become countries of settlement, from Egypt to Morocco.
In this context, the Catholic and Protestant Churches are repopulated. Small house churches are emerging, which allow migrants to keep the denomination of their country of origin, often Pentecostal or neo-evangelical. The birth of these domestic communities can also be explained by the fact that the neighborhoods where the migrants settle are often far from the city centers where the historic churches are located. This Christianity which comes from the countries of the South will revitalize a colonial Christianity in decline after independence.
How did his appearance spark the creation of the Al-Mowafaqa Ecumenical Institute ten years ago?
S. B. : Around 2010, Pastor Samuel Amédro, head of the Evangelical Church in Morocco, and Mgr Vincent Landel, Archbishop of Rabat, perceived the potential of this dynamic coming from the countries of the South, but also its risks of tensions. These house churches could take an anti-Islamic, mercenary, or even warlike turn. The two leaders therefore decided to create a place of training to train and supervise this nascent and informal Christianity, with the agreement of the government. Partnerships have been created with the Faculty of Protestant Theology of the University of Strasbourg and the Catholic Institute of Paris, which issue the diplomas. On the other hand, in this Muslim country where religious freedom is not guaranteed, the institute cannot proselytize or train Moroccan Christians. He can only teach foreign Christians.
Why was this institute thought of as ecumenical?
S. B. : Samuel Amédro thought at the time that if the institute was based on Protestantism – which would have been logical since with the migrations, this confession became the majority among Christians – it would not have an official foundation, the foundation that Catholicism.
Protestants and Catholics therefore decided to create this institute together. One or two years later, many actors involved in the Islamic-Christian dialogue joined them. The idea is that the students are trained in Catholic and Protestant theology, but also in Islamology, and this through the learning of three languages: Arabic, Greek and Hebrew. The training is supplemented by courses in the humanities, anthropology, sociology of religions, etc.
The model of this institute of ecumenical theology in a Muslim country is unique in the world. Its professors come from the largest European universities, and the courses are given in Catholic and Protestant duo. This form of ecumenism, at first, was not self-evident. Some teachers told me that they sometimes argued during their first sessions, because they did not have the same reading of the texts.
What role does the Al-Mowafaqa Institute play in the coexistence of these Christian communities with their Muslim environment?
S. B. : Samuel Amédro and Bernard Coyault, director at the time, wanted the institute to benefit the pastors of the house churches, who learn a little on the job. Within a program that provides them with training once a month, these pastors have therefore learned to frame their community with the specificity of their denomination and their language. This contributed to their integration, because by training in theology, one learns tolerance. The pastors trained within the institute in turn organize training seminars in the neighborhoods of migration. For these communities which may be prey to tensions due to suffering, precariousness and the absence of papers, they become resource persons. Here, training in theology has a calming function.