In Morocco, the Coronavirus forced the country to declare lockdown from 20 March. This has led to the suspension of all activities; it has changed the way we live and the way people welcome us. A very strange, surreal feeling: forced to stay at home because of the danger of infection. What to do? How to organise ourselves?
Lent and Easter in this unexpected newness helped us to enter more into a state of prayer, in which we humbly ask the Lord how to continue to be signs of His presence. Even for the Moroccans, it was not an easy time because they had to go through Ramadan, the holy month of fasting, without being able to go to the mosque for prayer and without being able to meet in the evening, brightening up the streets of every neighbourhood that were so deserted.
The State and the associations mobilised to meet the economic and social needs of their citizens; we continue to do what the Lord asks us to do: to listen and live Christian charity.The fraternities in Tangier, Tetuan and Marrakech had to deal differently, with the help given to migrants living in Morocco in the hope of reaching Europe because of Covid 19. They organised themselves to meet those who needed help directly in the various neighbourhoods or to meet individuals in the parish who were receiving financial support for a few weeks. The Tetuan fraternity also made hundreds of masks which were then distributed to migrants and some local associations.
The presence of sub-Saharan university students is another distinctive feature of the Church in Morocco. The friars have tried to support these young people through social networks, continuing to nourish their prayers, to accompany them on their spiritual journey, and to help them materially where this need manifested itself. Many missionary friars serve as chaplains in prisons throughout the year to meet foreign Christian prisoners. At this time, however, when one cannot go to the prison, some of us have experienced the welcome given to a small number in the friary in Meknes or the diocesan house in Rabat. Released men who have served their sentence but still cannot fully enjoy their freedom because of this pandemic. It seemed to us a great grace to be able to put the Gospel into practice, thanks to their presence.
It is the Gospel itself that asks us, as does our Rule of Life, to incarnate the presence of Jesus where we are. So, then, a further possible testimony is given by the very fact that we did not leave to do so, but that we remained. We live as foreigners in Morocco, and many times people still see us only in this perspective. The Coronavirus and the consequent health emergency have shown the Moroccans and us that we are part of that Church that wants to serve in generosity and is not a foreigner among the people it seeks to love.
Br. Natale Fiumanó, OFM
for the Custody of Protomartyrs in Morocco