Christian Orphanage forcibly shut down in Morocco

By request, below is the official statement. Click on the link to see the full thing, with pictures.

Village of Hope Official Statement
11 March 2010

This is the first official statement from the parents of the Village of Hope. It is written with the full endorsement of all the parents who are currently in exile after deportation. Previous statements and comments to be found on the worldwide web and other publications have not been endorsed by the parents.

For the past 10 years the Village of Hope has offered an outstanding level of care and love to Moroccan Children. The unique model of care offered by VOH means that children have been raised in family units with a Mum and Dad rather than the more traditional dormitory style orphanage set up. VOH has always operated with the full knowledge and agreement of the Moroccan authorities with the overt understanding that the overseas workers are Christian. It has also always been understood that the children would be raised in a Muslim/Christian environment but would also be fully immersed in their Moroccan culture in terms of love for their country, language, education and knowledge of Islam.

On Monday 8th March, all 16 overseas workers, including 10 parents, and 13 natural-born dependents, were told they were to be evicted from the site and country. The reason given was that the parents had been proselytizing, with no explanation of who, when, where or how this was alleged to have occurred. No charges concerning the welfare and care of the children have ever been raised as a concern by the Moroccan authorities in the 10 year history of VOH.

The Moroccan authorities have not produced any evidence of the alleged offence and they gave only a few hours for the parents to pack up belongings and explain to their children that they might never see them again.

This action against VOH was part of a nationwide crackdown against Christians living in Morocco. VOH fully understands that the Moroccan law prohibits people from promoting a faith other than Islam and has always sought to abide by this law and recognises the right of the authorities to enforce this law. All parents, volunteers and visitors to VOH were required to sign a declaration stating that they will abide by the Moroccan law prohibiting evangelism. A copy of this declaration is appended below. VOH strongly refutes the allegation made against its staff and confirms that the authorities have always been aware of its Christian ethos and that throughout the 10 years the authorities have placed children into the care of VOH. It is also a grave concern that no appeal process has been offered to challenge this decision and the action taken.

The eviction process was the most painful situation imaginable. The Moroccan authorities gathered the children together in the school and told them what was happening in the absence of the parents. After that, parents had to further explain to the devastated children what was about to happen. Some of the children have been with their parents for 10 years and the trauma caused was beyond description. VOH would like to make it very clear that during the eviction process, no member of the Moroccan authorities ill treated any of the staff or children and that the Moroccan authorities had a team of carers, albeit strangers to the children, ready to come in and offer temporary care. However, parents have no idea what is to happen to their children or how they are coping and have no point of contact with the Moroccan authorities.

VOH understands the action of the authorities in relation to any “missionaries” if there is real evidence against them of preaching the gospel. However, they feel the action against them was without foundation and completely unjust. VOH is not a missionary organisation and only exists to offer love, care and education to Moroccan children. There is a sense that VOH has been included in a nationwide action, but there is absolutely no legal merit to the action taken against VOH.

The parents of VOH want to clearly state their love for the Kingdom and people of Morocco and fear this act by the authorities will cause long term damage to the excellent reputation of Morocco. Morocco is viewed by the West as a moderate and safe Islamic state with an ever improving response to social issues. The King has been a driving force behind so much positive reform and he is to be honoured for all he has done for the betterment of his people. However, actions like this are only likely to tarnish Morocco’s image and have a detrimental effect on inward investment, foreign aid and tourism. If a perception grows that non-Islamic guests in Morocco and foreign led organisations are being targeted then we fear for the damage that could be caused. Key relationships with the EU and other trading partners and supporters of Morocco could be affected unless a negotiated settlement can be seen to take place. VOH, through its international investors, have pumped Millions of Moroccan dirham into infrastructure, care of children, employment of Moroccans and the local economy only to have it taken away in a matter of hours. What signal does this send to others looking to support the development of Morocco either through trade, aid or simply as a tourist.

The parents only want to be reunited with their children. Every single set of parents would return to Morocco to continue with the care of the children and continue to live under the law and authority of the State. Equally, the parents would be willing to negotiate for the release of the children into their care to the parent’s country of origin. As parents, we plead with the Moroccan authorities to open a dialogue with us as to the future well being and care of our children.

We openly and unashamedly appeal directly to the King, as a Father himself, to act with mercy and help us reach a point of compromise and reunite the 33 children with the only parents they know.

We also appeal to our supporters around the World to not react to this situation and use the internet or any other means to say anything that might be viewed as detrimental about the Moroccan authorities. We the parents are the only people who carry the authority to speak into this situation on behalf of our children and we are raising up a team of people whom we trust with our message to speak on our behalves. If you have posted “unauthorised” comments or started campaigns, we would plead with you to stop and remove information you have put into the public domain.

For offers of help and especially if you have access to the people of influence and power, please contact the following people:

USA
Allen Wolf
Tel: 310-314-3960
allen@morningstarpictures.com

UK
Mark Johnston
Pioneer People Wirral
Tel: 0798 654 0930
mcwirral@yahoo.co.uk
To make a donation:
http://www.justgiving.co.uk/pioneerpeople

Holland
Information coming

South Africa
Errol Muller
venita5045@swissmail.org

France
Michael Paita
La Gerbe
Tél : 01 34 75 56 15
michael.paita@lagerbe.org

As parents, we can’t walk away from this situation. We need to work hard to make sure our children are safe and ultimately given back to us. We appeal for international support to help us campaign against this unjust decision. We urgently need finances to provide living costs for displaced families, provision of support for sacked Moroccan workers, legal representation, travel costs for staff to and from home countries and funding to fight this issue for as long as it takes. Again, please contact the above people to provide your financial support.

We conclude with just one story to make everyone understand the impact of what is happening.

Simo came to VoH as a very sick newborn baby boy. He had been born to a single teenage mother with mental health problems, who abandoned him at VoH on the day of his birth, and in a very unwell state. Within hours of his arrival, he developed breathing problems, and was rushed to hospital, where he stopped breathing and was revived by our Dutch nurse. Simo remained in hospital for eight weeks, and was then returned to VoH care and custody by the Moroccan authorities. He returned malnourished, and extremely unwell. He was unable to feed except through a tube, and then only in very small amounts. He weighed only 2.79kg, less than his original birth weight. Simo required, and received, one-on-one nursing care from our qualified Dutch and British nursing staff 24-7 for several months. Once Simo began putting on weight and his health improved, he was placed permanently with one of the VoH parents, who have provided him with love and all the other essential needs of a little baby. He has remained with his new parents and 9 siblings for the past year, up until the day that they were evicted. Simo was later diagnosed with severe cerebral palsy, and had a number of ongoing related complications. However, with a strict medication and care regime from his parents and our nursing staff, he became a happy, healthy little boy with a future and a hope.

Without VoH’s immediate intervention and action, Simo would have died. But at the time of the parent’s eviction from VoH, he was a happy and very healthy little boy who, whilst very handicapped, was well provided for and continues to be loved as a son and brother by his parents and siblings. We have been informed that Simo had a very bad night after his parents departed, and that within 15 hours of his mum and dad being torn from him, he was taken to a hospital to be cared for, as the temporary Moroccan staff were unable to cope with his needs. We reiterate that Simo was not unwell when his parents were taken away. But he requires a particular regime of medication and special care to ensure that he remains healthy and comfortable. We hope that he continues to receive the special care that he requires, that people will be permitted to visit and hold him, to talk to him and let him know that he is still loved. Ultimately, we want to see Simo back in the arms of his loving parents and siblings, restored to the love and hope that he so deserves.

We have another 32 stories to tell and will keep telling the stories until a just decision is made. This is not an issue of Islam vs Christianity, this is a issue of families torn apart, bewildered and devastated children and heartbroken parents. We call for Justice.

God bless and thank you for the uncountable acts and words of kindness and prayer already received. Please continue to stand with us.

From the Parents in exile and separated from their beautiful Children.

To help out at this time, please consider a donation to VoH.

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20 Responses to Christian Orphanage forcibly shut down in Morocco

  1. cindyinsd says:

    I am so sorry, Peter. I’ll be praying for you and all those involved in this situation as God puts you all on my heart. If you haven’t done already, I encourage you to alert Voice of the Martyrs. They’re very good at getting things out and might also be able to offer some assistance if it’s possible to do anything to help.

    Love in Him, Cindy

  2. Pingback: Emergency in Morocco « Cindy in South Dakota

  3. Joy Jones says:

    I have just heard from a former member of The Children’s Haven that the police may be on their way there at this very moment (10 March 9:10 am USA Central Time). Please pray and ask everyone that you know to pray.

  4. Karen Kemp says:

    We have sent several teams to Village of Hope the past few summers and are devastated by the news. My prayers are with Children’s Haven that they will be spared the same fate. Please continue to remember the children and families that were displaced at the VOH.

  5. Concerned Moroccan Christian says:

    Please remove this information. You are naming the names and places of people that are still there. Please Please take this down. This will not help at all. I am directly involved and know of the situation and am working on it.

  6. Peter says:

    And you are? Note that the people on the ground are requesting publicity, I weigh that against an anonymous comment. Sorry, but you would have to give me more than that. I would email you, but that email address does not look genuine?

  7. Sam Hawthorn says:

    Hi Peter,

    my name is Sam, I’m working for one of the trustees of the VoH here in the UK to pull together a mailing list so when the trustees mount an campaign they already have a solid base of contacts.

    The post above is, to some extent in the right, we need to be extremely careful regarding names and places that are mentioned. Even letters of names will easily reveal to anyone who knows those on site who you may be talking about.

    Having said that we do need to raise awareness regarding the situation, it’s a difficult line to walk. It’s good that so many people are talking and I don’t think what you’ve posted is particulalry unsafe.

    I can’t read French or Arabic but wondered if this had been reported in Morocco and what the response had been?

    Bless you,

    Sam

  8. Peter says:

    Hello Sam,

    I have taken into consideration some of the concerns raised, and if there are other concerns, please let me know. I will drop you my email address in the address you left me.

    If you have the google toolbar, you should be able to go to that link and ask Google to translate for you. It isn’t perfect, but you’ll get the gist.

    Peter

  9. G says:

    Here is the official Moroccan press release concerning the situtaion (translated from French via Google Translator)

    Foreign nationals expelled from Morocco for acts contrary to the laws in force (press)
    Rabat, 08/03/10 – The Moroccan authorities have taken lately, expulsion orders outside the national territory against foreign nationals of various nationalities, who are guilty of acts contrary to laws force.

    Among the deportees included 16 people, among leaders and residents of an orphanage located in the town of Ain Leuh (province of Ifrane), said Monday a press release from the Ministry of the Interior, stating that the parties took advantage of indigence some families and their targeting minors they reimburse, in violation of procedures regarding Kafala children abandoned or orphaned.

    Under the guise of benevolent activities, this group also engaged in proselytizing activities targeting young children, not more than ten years, adds the same source, noting that as part of the inquiry ordered by the prosecutor’s office, hundreds of leaflets and CDs were seized proselytism.

    The measures taken by the Moroccan authorities are part of the struggle against attempts to spread the credo of evangelist to shake the faith of Muslims.

    The department is on the other hand, stressed that the expulsion of the country have been taken in accordance with the laws in force for the preservation of religious and spiritual values of the Kingdom.

  10. Jean Doran Matua says:

    The Village of Hope took over and expanded the orphanage started by my great-aunt Ellen Doran and her partner Emogene Coates. Together, and with help of locals, they raised a number of abandoned Moroccan children who are now leading productive lives around the world. This most recent development leaves me shocked and devastated. I am especially concerned for the children!

  11. Concerned Moroccan Christian says:

    I cant name my name but I grew up in morocco. I agree about publicity and have been contacting the EU, State Department and every news organization possible. I cannot name my name. All I was asking and I see that you have already done that is that you remove names of the people in this post or make it more generic. i received the same messages yesterday. I didnt mean to sound rude or anything but just concerned. thank you for spreading the message and for posting comments!!! we appreciate everything you are doing.

  12. Peter says:

    You’re welcome Concerned, glad to be able to help in some way.

    Blessings,

    Peter

  13. Help says:

    You can help by increasing exposure to the problem on a heavily trafficked site like Lonely Planet:

    Set the record straight!

    Here is a link to the current debate about Village Of Hope’s tragedy:

    http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/thread.jspa?messageID=16874496

  14. Stuck in Toronto says:

    Peter I received this just a short time ago but did not have your e-mail. I hope you don’t mind me piggy-backing this info on your Blog. The Wall is being written on. The “Time of sorrows” (Matt.24)is at hand

    Dear Friend,

    It is with a sad heart that I write to you about a terrible loss to the World Vision family. Six staff members were killed in a brutal and senseless attack on our offices in the Mansehra District of Pakistan. Additionally, eight employees are hospitalized with injuries after the unprovoked assault by gunmen. Four of the staff have been released from the hospital.

    Our work in Pakistan is conducted by local citizens. We remember those staff who died as dedicated workers seeking to improve the lives of people affected by poverty and disasters. World Vision has temporarily suspended our operations in Pakistan, but we remain committed to helping children, families, and communities in this country.

    As World Vision mourns our colleagues, we ask you to join us in praying for the families of our staff members and the people they serve in Pakistan, including those who respond to kindness with violence.
    An unprovoked, violent attack on World Vision’s office in Pakistan has killed six members of our staff. Eight additional workers are hospitalized with injuries. World Vision mourns the loss of its staff and asks for prayers following this tragic situation.
    REUTERS | Stringer Pakistan

    God bless,

    Rich Stearns
    President, World Vision U.S.

    P.S. Please check in with http://www.worldvision.org for updates as we learn more.

  15. Lisa says:

    Your blog has been one of my favorites of all time. … Thanks for writing such a great blog. I always enjoyed reading it,

  16. Princess Rafatu Iddrisu says:

    CHRIST HARVESTER ORPHANGE
    P.O.Box 18, Koforidua E>R
    H”NO KNTC 120 K/DUA

    Christ Harvester Orphanage is a non-Govermental organization [ NGO] aimed at fighting porverty,in justice as well as supporting the poor
    Christ Harvester work is focused arround core thematic areas’
    1,The Rights to education
    2,The Right of Food
    3,To Educate street children
    4,The Right to life and dignity in the face of venereal diseases.
    The above mentioned NGO is looking for bodies that can support the home,like cooperate organizations individual churches and so on to
    donate to the home.
    Because when a child doesn’t have proper handed by parents they normally grow up with diffrent kind of attitude.
    Some of the attitudes are :illiteracy and drug abuse smoking Arm-Robbery and praticing prostitution and even now the most another things
    that going on these rituals that is going on now in the system,internet fraud etc.just because he or she like a good strong foundation from
    childhood.
    And look at what is going on in some communities and corrupted areas like Christian village,Nima,Choko,Labadi, Sodom and Gomorra
    when you go to all these areas, you will see difference kinds of habit which if you asked most of them, why they developed in these
    situation most of them are orphans ,and street Boys and Girls that is why we are trying our best to care for this.
    we get to know that all these attitudes is cause by orphanages,
    My reason is to fight all these in my country ,communities and villages in some areas that infected by all these kinds of issues on the
    ground , so we are trying to build home homes and school church etc.
    incase you are tuoched to support us with fund,
    this is our account information
    STANDARD CHARTERED BANK.
    0101932895200
    Princess Rafatu Iddrisu.
    [CEO]

  17. faithwalk says:

    Hello dear Peter! I havent visited wordpress in forever long but tonight felt led to do so. I wept reading this as tonight I was telling someone about morrocco and VOH.
    How indredibly sad! having been there it really hits home and breaks my heart.

    I hope you are all doing well… think of you and ruthy and the children often.. i miss you guys!

  18. Latifa Sefiane Ring says:

    My name is Latifa Sefiane Ring.

    I am the oldest orphan girl raised at the Children’s Haven of Morocco in Azrou. I was born in 1955 and was the second child taken in by Mary Mellinger and Irena Wenholz. Imogene Coats and Ellen Doran who founded a sister home for children in Ain Leuh which has now become the village of hope were close colleagues.

    These women who left all their worldly possessions behind and who left their families in the United States went on to Morocco to make a difference in the lives of many otherwise destitute and abandoned orphans. Yes they were Christian women but they did so much more. Under their care well over 100 children were raised who went on to live productive lives. Some of them are computer engineers, accountants, counselors, financial advisors, social workers and sole proprietors amoung other professions. Most of them now have children of their own and some have grandchildren. All were well educated.

    I am a computer professional with over 30 years of experience in the industry. I have a college education and have owned my own business. Irena Wenholz had an incredible impact on my life and today I too and a fierce advocate for the needy and vulnerable of society here in the United States. I became involved in politics to help the cause of elderly and disabled victims of abuse and exploitation.

    I attended the 2008 national convention in Denver as a delegate, worked to get elder abuse on the DNC national platform and have testified to Congress on Capitol Hill advocating for those less fortunate than me. Ironically, Irena and Mary went to Morocco to help vulnerable citizens and today I live in the USA where I am working to help those in need here in this country. Perhaps in my own way I am paying in back.

    For the past five years I have struggled though the Courts here in the US to help Mary Mellinger who was a victim of abuse and who was abandoned by and forced to leave Morocco, her home of 60 years, by the very mission that she founded. Today she lives in Texas and I see to her care.

    If it was not for the Haven, for all the right or wrong that may have been done, I often ask myself where would I be. I wonder the same for many of the other children. Sure things could have been done differently but look at how far we have come.

    At the end of the day the concern should only be for the children. Are they well cared for ? Are they shown love ? What kind of future will they have.

    I hope and pray that those in charge of the Village of Hope and the Haven remember it is about the children.

    Latifa Sefiane Ring
    Houston, Texas
    latifa.ring@gmail.com

  19. Cindy says:

    My name is Stan Brown. I lived in Kenitra from 1962 through 1964 while stationed at the US Naval Station. One evening I was approached by several young men who were engaged in building the chapel at Azrou Orphanage. They had heard that I was an engineering student and wondered if I could design the roof trusses for the chapel so it would safely withstand the snow load. I felt honored to have the opportunity to contribute to the effort. Recently I had an occasion to recall that incident and was amazed to find a picture of the chapel on the internet. I am saddened to learn that the orphanage has met such a tragic end. Although I never became more involved than designing the roof structure, my heart goes out to all who have been displaced and affected. I always felt comfortable and welcome with my Moroccan friends and that we could get along by simply respecting each other’s faiths founded on one God.

    as

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