Love Your Neighbor as Yourself

I met many in Oujda. In just a very short period of time I was given a very personal insight into life and society in Morocco. Of course I couldn’t make it to all of the famous tourist attractions such as the cities of Casablanca and Marrakesh. And yet I felt as if I already knew my way around. Drawing on my personal Arabic knowledge, and reactivating some of my French vocabulary from high school, I was able to interact with quite a myriad of people. People from different parts of Africa. People speaking different languages. People adhering to different faiths.

Central mosque and market square in a Moroccan city

Living among African refugees and spending time with them has shown me how beautiful and precious peace is. Peace among people. Peace among peoples. Peace among religions. We should never underestimate the effect of small gestures of love and acts of sacrifice for the common good of a community. A community of people who, despite all their shortcomings and respective differences, value and respect each other. This is not the tourists’ Morocco, not the fancy hotels and beaches, not the famous cultural and religious places of interest. It is a regular town. Regular people. Women, men, children.

Many phenomena of Moroccan society are rather troubling. One woman told us about her experiences with sexual harassment. It happens around 10 times a day, she said. What has shocked German society on New Year’s Eve 2015–2016 comes as no surprise to those who know a little about everyday realities in North Africa. Antisemitism is widespread too. This is no surprise, either. It is striking, however, that people who have probably never met a single Jewish person in their life find it so easy to pass a negative judgement on all Jews: “I hate Jews.

This is not in line with what the Christian faith teaches. Nor is it acceptable from a logical, rational, or secular ethical perspective. This has to be stressed and defended, especially against those who hold these views. Common phrases like “Islam is peace” and “God is merciful” will not suffice so long as racism, antisemitism, and misogyny are ignored or even propagated. Needless to say, this goes for all societies in the world. Yet the degrees of sensitivity vary from here to there. One should bear in mind this fact when thinking about migration and integration of refugees into European societies.

I, personally, will remind myself of what the Catholic priest told us one day. That in making the sign of the cross he expresses two things: First, his love for God, and second, his love for his neighbor, the person next to him at any given time. I thus feel inclined to conclude: On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.

Morocco Church
Inside a Catholic church: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39)

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