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2008-01-17
Belleflower, California, USA
Americans on Religious Freedom Resolution Tour in Morocco
While religious freedom is almost taken for granted in the U.S., two American visitors to Morocco discovered that religious liberty is a topic that still sparks lively interest, curiosity, and animated dialog with adherents of Islam.

“Theirs is a Muslim state and they think we come from a Christian state,” notes Garry Ansdell, pastor of Hosanna Chapel and co-founder of Ambassadors for Peace. Ansdell founded the organization with Ameal Haddad, pastor of the Bellflower Church of God.

Both men recently toured Casablanca and other parts of Morocco to promote their “Religious Rights Resolution,” which calls for religious freedom in all countries of the world. The resolution includes a right of conversion without fear of retribution as part of its list of inalienable rights.

“This is not about politics or ecumenical movements,” says Ansdell. “It’s about the divine right to make choices and stand up for what you believe without fear of reprisal,” he says. “We want the ability to share our faith no matter what.”

Still, the America visitors had to overcome many stereotypes about the U.S. inculcated by Al-Jazeera, CNN, and even Jay Leno, according to Ansdell. “Many in Morocco see Christianity as an extension of American politics,” he notes. “There is a majority who don’t know anything about the Bible; all they know is what CNN shows them.”

Pastors Ansdell and Haddad met with leaders in governement, law, education, as well as religious leaders. Initially, the men had to fend off some hostility related to U.S. policies in the Middle East. “At first they were on the attack,” Ansdell notes. “They had many complaints and arguments, but they hadn’t heard the other side,” he says. “We had a good dialog and we became friends.”

At one of the exchanges, Ansdell spoke to the misunderstandings that develop when people are judged by their politics.

“Do you want me to interpret Islam from the events of 911, or you, or the Koran?” Ansdell asked in one of the meetings.

“The Koran,” they replied.

“I’ve read the Koran,” Ansdell said, “but most of you have never read the Bible.” Some took his challenge to heart, and indicated their willingness to compare religious texts.

A number of the Moroccan leaders responded affirmatively to the rights resolution. “Our ultimate objective is to take this to world leaders to effect freedom of religion,” Haddad says. Indeed, several Moroccan officials indicated their intention to get the resolution into the hands of the king of Morocco.

“This is where dialog begins,” Ansdell notes.

Ambassadors for Peace has scheduled several overseas trips in the coming months to promote the resolution, including stops in France, Bahrain, and Australia.

Source: ASSIST News Service (ANS) - PO Box 609, Lake Forest, CA 92609-0609 USA
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