From our correspondent
The room is barely beginning to fill up when the first synthesizer notes rise. On the thirty plastic chairs, the faithful are in Sunday outfits. Women in colorful dresses, men in shirts. “Hallelujah! You are present ! », launches Yannick Backala at the microphone to begin the prayer. Originally from Congo-Brazzaville, he welcomes the faithful who arrive and whose prayers rise in this modest setting.
The faithful do not forget Morocco which welcomes them. “You are going to pray for its inhabitants, whether they are Christians or not! May this kingdom be blessed! Blessed be the king of this land too! », launches Yannick Backala, always in rhythm and music.
From the outside, nothing reveals the presence of the Elohim Church on the top floor of this ordinary building in the popular district of Yacoub-Al-Mansour, in Rabat. Led by the Cameroonian pastor Didier Ndjikap, his followers are all from sub-Saharan Africa. “I’ve been coming here for two years,” says Didier Komol, 33, also from Cameroon. “I chose it because it is a Church of Revival (an evangelical current, Editor’s note). I found that the Spirit of God was with us. I feel his presence and, at the end of the service, I am calm. »
The Elohim Church is one of the dozens, if not hundreds, of evangelical “house churches” that have appeared in Morocco over the past twenty years. As Morocco welcomed students, workers or migrants from sub-Saharan Africa, they established themselves in working-class neighborhoods in major Moroccan cities. Their development was favored by the waves of regularization in the 2010s, after a period of harsh repression of undocumented migrants.
They are added to the “historic” Churches, present since the protectorate and recognized by the king: the Anglican Church, the Evangelical Church in Morocco (formerly mainly composed of Reformed Protestants) and the Catholic Church. “Many find that these official churches have a hierarchy that is a little too strict and that it is difficult to find a place in them”, explains Pastor Jean Masembila, originally from Congo-Kinshasa. Their buildings, located in city centers, are also difficult to access because of the cost of transport for the faithful who are often in very precarious situations.
In these informal churches, the faithful are marked by the experience of racism and exodus, which is often accompanied by drama. “They are creating a real theology of migration there”, describes Sophie Bava, anthropologist (1). To his eyes, “this Christianity from below is a vector of integration. But it can be accompanied by perverse effects.. Some pastors sometimes take radical rhetoric, particularly vis-à-vis Islam.
To respond to this challenge, the Al-Mowafaqa Ecumenical Institute, founded in Rabat in 2012 by the Catholic Church and the Evangelical Church in Morocco to train their own leaders, created Forem, the “training of leaders of the churches of home “. “The courses address theological questions, but also aspects of sociology, in particular on Moroccan society, describes Jean Koulagna, pastor and director of the Al-Mowafaqa Institute. One of the objectives is to prevent intolerant speech. »
Nearly 150 house church leaders have been trained, free of charge, since its creation, in Rabat and Casablanca. If the house churches are not recognized, they are generally tolerated, while remaining discreet. In Morocco, where Islam is the official religion and the vast majority of Moroccans are Muslims, religious freedom is not guaranteed. The Constitution only recognizes freedom of worship. “The house churches are a bit scattered, observes Jean Masembila, who has become one of Forem’s supervisors. Formation pushes us to dialogue and we thus set ourselves in search of the universal Church as the body of Christ. »