The events that took place in Tunisia and whose spirit has spread in the Middle East took us by surprise. In a few weeks, the whole of Northern Africa was affected. We started to hear the expression ‘Arab spring’. Spring is the time when nature comes back to life, the time in which we prepare ourselves to receive all that blossom in nature. It is the time when one witnesses the rebirth of colours, of life; a time when, even physically, one feels revived.
It is true that the uprisings have turned violent in some countries, but it is also true that a new social settlement is in the air. We need the patience to see where these events will take us. After all, the changes we have seen happening are still in their germinal state. At the same time, we cannot simply take the spectator’s seat. It is our duty to learn more, to verify information, to digest it and let it penetrate our hearts to better manage the future. Of course, many Christians in the Maghreb are not permanent resident and perhaps some are not interested in what is happening. All the same, we cannot overlook the dynamism of the societies where we live.
Here in Morocco, the new Constitution has confirmed the freedom of worship. For some quarters one hears talk about Islamisation of the country. I must confess that I do not see it, and yet I try to be an attentive witness of what is happening. What I see are events of a social nature, no one has tried any religious appropriation of any kind.
As Christians, should we not “give an account for the hope that is in us” being at the service of peace, justice and reconciliation wherever we are? In spring these gems of peace justice and reconciliation can also bloom! Is our Church not also living a new spring? After all, we can see the sign of new life across all of our liturgical celebrations, in the lively and dynamic faith, in our true catholicity. Christians in Morocco represent more than 90 different nationalities. We are a community strengthened by the formation we offer to our faithful, by the sacramental life, by our presence in the economy and in the universities. Ours is a community that offers a silent witness to faith, but also is present among the many sub-Saharan migrants and in numerous Moroccan social and educational associations.
The question so is if we shall be able to rejoice in this springtime of the Church in which we participate; if we shall realize the importance of being in the heart of the Arab Spring. Yes! It is a real spring because our faith is bound to grow if it wants to be true!
We have the grace of belonging to the Church in Morocco; we need the courage to proclaim the possibility to be living a rejuvenating and life-giving faith in this land.
In the last Bishops’ Conference of Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, we said “it seems to us that three key challenges emerge in these countries: a religious challenge, a policy challenge and a socio-economic challenge.” These challenges involve transitions: from fear of a religious radicalization to the quiet affirmation of one’s faith in compliance with other values; from a life lived in fear to freedom, dignity and democracy; from reclusiveness to freedom of speech and responsibility for the many women who proclaim their desire to be more respected in dignity and rights; from crisis to real outlets for the future of young people.
These challenges and these steps have not yet been achieved. There will be surprises, but which nation has ever been able to make changes without struggling? The Church in Morocco can only be enriched by this Arab Spring. The words: freedom, justice, dignity, participation, honesty, responsibility, are not empty of meaning for us who are baptized!
Vincent Louis Marie Landel
Archbishop of Rabat