As questions surround Cuban dictator Fidel Castro’s health, a spot-light is being trained on his decades-long campaign to impose Marxist-Leninist ideology and tyranny in North Africa.
This week, a delegation of the Washington, DC based National Clergy Council (NCC), will conduct informational forums for Evangelical leaders in Knoxville and Gatlinburg, Tennessee and Houston, Texas about a little-known vestige of the Cold War. These forums are part of an ongoing national education effort aimed at Evangelical and other conservative Christian pastors, local church missions lay personnel, heads of various organizations and Christian media representatives.
The National Clergy Council is pressing for open inspection of 30-year old detention camps in the North African country of Algeria run by the POLISARIO Front, a Marxist-inspired terrorist organization bent on toppling the neighboring government of Morocco. Morocco is America’s nearest African neighbor and among its strongest allies in the region.
Some 40 years ago, Fidel Castro set his sites on the former Spanish Sahara, a swath of dessert between Africa’s Atlantic coast, Mauritania to the south and Algeria to the northeast. Morocco has a 1000-year history of sovereignty over the area interrupted only by the century-long Spanish occupation that ended in 1974.
With backing from the former Soviet Union and Libya, Castro provided training and weapons to the POLISARIO guerillas. With the decline of communism, the POLISARIO has turned to international crime to fund its operations, including the diversion and black market sales of millions of dollars in aid provided by Christian organizations.
More than 50,000 inhabitants of Morocco’s Southern Provinces of the Western Sahara have been held in the detention centers, some for decades. Tens of thousands of their children have been shipped off to Cuba for communist indoctrination. Many never returned.
National Clergy Council president, the Reverend Rob Schenck (pronounced SHANK), who has visited the region and hosted victims of the conflict at NCC Washington headquarters, left Sunday, August 6, for the five-day, two-state, three city tour. Traveling with him are NCC vice-president Dr. David Moshier and director of the Council’s Christian Friendship Mission to Morocco, Mr. Tanie Guy. The three will host two luncheons: Knoxville, August 7, and Houston, August 11. On August 9 they will host a dinner in Gatlinburg for attendees of the annual executive conference of the Evangelical Church Alliance, America’s oldest association of Evangelical clergy, churches and military and institutional chaplains.
Present at all the events will be former detainees of the camps, and children, now adults, who were abducted and held captive on Castro’s infamous “Isle of Youth.”
Similar events have been held in Trenton, New Jersey, Sarasota and Jacksonville, Florida, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Columbus, Ohio, and Detroit, Michigan. A December schedule includes locations in Arizona and California.
The meals and forums are complementary. Attendees learn three non-financial ways to use their influence to end the suffering in the Western Sahara. No fundraising is done before, during or after the events.
Rev. Schenck stated before his departure, “The Bible says when it’s in the power of your hand to do good, do it. Don’t say to your neighbor come back at another time when you have what they need now. The victims of this crisis have asked for our help, and I believe it’s our Christian responsibility to give it.”
Rev. Schenck also stressed other important dimensions to the effort. “This collaboration between American Evangelicals and Moroccans is unprecedented. The humanitarian aspects are important by themselves, but it is also paving the way to more positive exchanges in the future,” he said.
Invitations remain open to the Knoxville and Houston luncheons. Details follow. There is no cost for the meals or the program, but reservations are appreciated, even up to the last minute. A limited number of walk-ins will be accepted. Register by E- mail or phone for parties up to six at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-546- 8329, extension 104.
August 7, 12 – 3 PM
500 Hill Ave, SE
Knoxville, TN 37915
August 11, 12 – 3 PM
5150 Westheimer Rd
Houston, TX 77056