The Regional Bishops’ Conference of North Africa recently met in Tangier, Morocco, to discuss the situation of the Church in the region, which is largely Muslim.
According to a statement issued after the Conference, between 50% and 90% of Catholics in North African countries are migrants and workers from sub-Saharan Africa.
The statement continues to describe developments in the countries of North Africa, which have been “traditionally countries of emigration, have also become transit countries, but are also gradually becoming host countries”. Among these, “Morocco has chosen to turn to” sub-Saharan Africa and to “integrate the sub-Saharan Africans living on its territory: opening of borders and the multiplication of airlines towards sub-Saharan Countries, regularization of undocumented persons, sending children to school, care for all in public health institutions, Islamic religion courses for non-Muslims, the possibility for foreigners to set up businesses and to repatriate capital: there are many signs of openness of the country to the south as to the north”.
These assembled factors present both a challenge and an opportunity for the Church in North Africa. “It is a joy for us that the Church becomes more universal, less European and rejuvenated”, the Bishops said.
Several priests and religious from the sub-Saharan migrants’ countries of origin are in fact members of the Church of North Africa, a fact noted by the Bishops: “among pastoral agents of different cultural origin, one must learn to know and have esteem of our diversities”.
The mission of the Church in North Africa is focused “not only on the spiritual support of its members, but also on the testimony of Christ’s love for all, entering into a relationship with our Muslim brothers and sisters”.
The Bishops underline that “this is not easy for the prejudices and the reality of a certain racism”; but they also note how some of the representations of the Virgin of Vladimir depict Mary, who embraces the Child Jesus, with one white hand and one black hand – an image that symbolises the future of the North African Church.