Pope Francis sought to encourage greater interactions between Christians and Muslims in Morocco, telling his flock that showing the country’s Muslim majority they are part of the same human family will help stamp out extremism.
On his second and final day in Morocco, Francis told Catholic priests and sisters that even though they are few in number, they shouldn’t seek to convert others to Christianity but rather engage in dialogue and charity.
“In this way, you will unmask and lay bare every attempt to exploit differences and ignorance in order to sow fear, hatred and conflict,” he said.
“For we know that fear and hatred, nurtured and manipulated, destabilise our communities and leave them spiritually defenceless.”
After reaching out on Saturday to Morocco’s Sunni majority and its growing community of migrants from countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Francis turned his attention in Sunday to the country’s Christian minority. His aim was to highlight their constructive presence in Moroccan life.
Francis visited a social centre run by Catholic religious sisters that serves a poor Muslim community south of the capital, Rabat, with medical, educational and vocational services. The Temara centre operates a preschool, treats burn victims, trains women to be tailors and provides meals for 150 children a day.
Catholic teachings are not taught at the preschool.
“Their teachers are all Muslims and speak in Arabic and they prepare them on Muslim religion,” said sister Gloria Carrillero. “We did not come here with the purpose of doing proselytism. We came here just to help.”
Catholics represent less than 1 per cent of Morocco’s population and most are foreign-born migrants. Morocco also has up to 6000 homegrown converts to Christianity who are obliged to practice their faith privately because Morocco prohibits Muslim conversions.