Christian missionaries stir unease in north Africa

Mon Dec 15, 2008 12:00am EST
 
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By Tom Pfeiffer

RABAT (Reuters) - A new breed of undercover Christian missionary is turning to Muslim north Africa in the search for new converts, alarming Islamic leaders who say they prey on the weak and threaten public order.

Missionary groups say the number of Moroccan Christians has grown to 1,500 from 100 in a decade and that Algerian Christians number several thousand, although no official figures exist.

They say their message is reaching thousands more, thanks partly to satellite TV and the internet.

The Koran states no-one can be forced to follow one religion, but many Muslims believe that to abandon Islam is to shun family, tribe and nation and bring shame upon relatives.

"Many Muslims told me 'If I find you I will kill you'," said Amin, a young man from northern Morocco who did not want to give his full name for fear of reprisals.

Amin said he became aware of Jesus Christ after dreaming that a figure dressed in a white robe approached him in a forest and handed him a Bible.

"When I told my father I had become a Christian he just stared at me without speaking. Then he said: 'From now on, you are not my son. Go to those people, let them feed you and give you a home -- we'll see who cares for you'," said Amin.

He left town, stopped his studies and now lives from translation work offered by a Christian missionary group.   Continued...

 
<p>Catholics pray in Saint Pierre Cathedral in Rabat November 12, 2008. A new breed of undercover Christian missionary is turning to Muslim north Africa in the search for new converts, alarming Islamic leaders who say they prey on the weak and threaten public order. Picture taken November 12, 2008. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante</p>