As Ramadan approaches, a Pioneer shares his thoughts on life in Morocco and how its been affected by the Arab Spring.
It’s Friday, a little after midday. In the world around us, this is the day of prayer. The weather is warm and close, the sun is hot. It’s kind of sleepy but we have stuff to do so we keep on going. A light lunch is a good idea if there is work to do in the afternoon. The air is heavy and quiet but for passing traffic and some bird song. Then from a distant mosque a familiar sound, followed by similar, closer sounds from similar, closer mosques begins to fill the heavy atmosphere. The laboured chanting, electronically mastered, forces our attention and distracts our concentration.
This is not yet the prayer call. On Fridays, before the prayer call, we are treated to a chorus of mosques chanting barely-decipherable messages for some twenty or thirty minutes. Eventually a respectful pause (each mosque in its own time) precedes the familiar words of the prayer call. ‘There is no god but God, and Muhammad is his prophet’, it repeats. After this, all is quiet for a while (at least until the preaching starts) and we are back to the bird song and hum of the occasional passing moped. Then, later, the preaching is broadcast – as the mosques normally overflow for this most-important prayer time of the week – mostly at a subdued volume. It might be good to understand Arabic well enough to follow; but then again, it might not.
There were regular protest marches (against unemployment, corruption and so on) during the spring. Morocco, as a country with a certain amount of democracy, was presented as having no need of the uprisings seen in Egypt, Tunisia and especially Libya, whose leader is unpopular amongst other Arab governments. So far, this country remains a safe and happy place to live, and we would not wish that to change.
There is clearly input from ‘those in high places’, which is colouring daily life. The way news is presented in the papers and on the official television station is gently controlled. The aim is to keep the Moroccan public from becoming too vociferous for change. (The fundamentalist Islamic sympathisers, always ready to jump on the back of a bit of unrest to gain a stronger position, are being kept in check too, I believe.)
Is this necessarily wrong? The instability of Libya is hardly something to be desired; even the revolutions of Egypt and Tunisia seems to have led to a fairly squalid summer for those nations.
In the midst of all this, what are God’s priorities? Do they ever change? There are some remarkable opportunities for the gospel to spread across countries in this part of the world, along with continued pressure to contain the growth of the Church. While we do not desire these things, anarchy, riots, full prisons, torture and mass refugee movements can all open up the hearts of people with no earthly hope. Pray for God to work!
The sacred month of Ramadan begins in a few days – it more-or-less coincides with August this year. For the whole month, Muslims are not supposed to eat or drink during daylight hours – and they catch up with lots of consuming and social activity once the sun goes down. The days of August are long and hot, and the nights are short. By the end of the month, many of them will be desperately tired. The month began in mid-August last year and many friends told us how difficult they found it. This year will be worse. Please pray.