Churches in a Muslim Majority Country

There’s no doubt that Morocco has had a pretty colourful history in its time, with its diverse culture being influenced by the nomadic Berbers, the powerful Almoravids, the rise of Islam, and the Christian influence from nearby Europe. Albeit small, Christianity’s historical influence does have a felt presence in Tangier, the Northern port city of Morocco. Walking around, you can see beautifully constructed churches large and small, some operating as museums, while others still in full operation.

Of note is the Church of Saint Andrew, which was first built in 1880, and consecrated in 1905 (source: Wikipedia, cuz I ain’t writing an academic paper!). The land where it is built was gifted to the British community in Tangier by Sultan Hassan I, and later expanded so that it could accommodate the increasing number of worshipers.

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Beautiful writings surrounding the church altar

 

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The alter in St. Andrew’s church. 

 

What is most interesting about this place is the style in which it was built. It has all the elements of a church: pews, alter, cross, bell tower, etc, but everything is built with a heavy Moorish influence. This style is reminiscent of some churches in Andalusia in Spain due to their close proximity to the Muslim communities at their time of development. However, as this church was built by the Brits, it is of exceptional interest, since their decision to build in the local style was purely an homage.

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Another beautiful door way in Tangier. This one is from the gardens at the Kasbah Museum.

The bell tower of this Anglican church is built just like a mosque’s minaret, the Lord’s Prayer is written boldly in Arabic, there are quotes from the Quran carved in its walls, and apparently, behind the alter, there is a small cleft pointed in the direction of Mecca.

I’m no historian, but I think that the Moroccan Sultan was certainly kind to offer land for foreigners to build a place of worship for a foreign religion, and the British were certainly trying to pay homage by building with local style in mind. Could this be an allegory for mutual respect and tolerance that we don’t see today? We need not look far to see that violence is experienced and perpetuated by people of all faiths everywhere. Certainly the rise in nationalistic ideologies, and the outflow of refugees from Muslim majority countries into the West have sparked tension. I think that in a time where the Middle Eastern and the Western governments do not see eye to eye on policies, that this little church built out of mutual respect for each other certainly speaks to a level of tolerance and coexistence that can be, to some extent, admired.

I hope that you get a chance to see this place for yourself. A small donation is asked, and the nice caretaker will give you a quick tour of this humble, but beautiful building. I’d tell you how to find it but we barely found it ourselves. If you can find your way to the Grand Socco, walk up the hill past the street vendors until you hit a T-intersection. The Church is across the street.


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