Village of Hope Families Official Statement
The families of VOH have issued a joint statement regarding the situation in Morocco. Please take the time to read it below, reprinted with permission. You can also find it on their organization’s website.
Note that along with the requests made in this official statement, the families have asked that, moving forward, anyone with media or government connections please contact the appropriate representative listed in the statement below.
Obviously we want to respect the parents’ wishes and the sensitivity of this situation.
Village of Hope Official Statement
11 March 2010
Errol with Adam, his son for the past 10 years, and Karim, hearing they might never see their dad again.
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:
Tél : 01 34 75 56 15
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.
Simo with his mother and two sisters immediately after hearing of the expulsion.
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.
During the time at VOH children’s home we must ask you not to proselytize. Proselytism is defined as distributing literature of any kind (this includes bibles and videos as well as tracts) or discussing the gospel with an intention to persuade. We trust that you have not brought any such material with you, for some reason have done so please do not hand it out.
We encourage you to enjoy having conversations and to build friendships with Moroccans. Official languages are Arabic and French. Comparatively little English is spoken. You will easily find yourself entering ordinary conversations with Moroccans about families, home communities, etc. Make use of your family photos during these conversations. Should you be asked about your religious beliefs, do not feel inhibited in any way to state that you are a Christian. Most of the people in the community and the Authorities know that we are Christians.
We want you to be a blessing to the community and we want our lives to shine brightly for the Kingdom. We believe that through our lives and good works people will begin to glorify God.
PURPOSE AND POLICY OF AGREEMENT
We ask each work team member and visitor to please signify their agreement with each of the following commitments. Please initial each of the statements to signify your agreement. Sign and date the form. Give this to the Director or the Work Team Coordinator after you have signed it
|___________________||I understand and agree that my first purpose is to be here to do the physical work I am given. If I am given the opportunity to share my faith it will be as a result of me having been asked to do so.|
|___________________||I will abide by the policy of not proselytising while at VOH.|
|___________________||I will not defame the King of Morocco.|
|___________________||I will not defame Mohammed or Islam.|
I understand that if I fail to comply with these commitments that I will be asked to leave Village of Hope premises immediately.
_____________________ _____________ __________________________________
Signature Date Print your Surname and First name.