Beyond Maude Cary and Al Jessup

When I began the blog, I chose the Book Locker and Mme Miss Terri as subjects because the first was iconic, and the second was indicative of how we Peace Corps volunteers were struggling to make some sense of our surroundings, where things might not have always been what they seemed to be.
The book lockers faded away as the card board containers molded and broke, and, perhaps, because they may have represented a sharing of contemporaneous literature not universally admired. In 1968, the political winds blew through the Peace Corps offices just as they did everywhere in America. After the election of Richard Nixon in 1968, the New York Times Week in Review ceased arriving and in its place was Time Magazine.

Don Brown, Dick Holbrooke 1970

Eventually we even got a political refugee, Richard Holbrooke, whose stated ambition, on one occasion anyway, was to drive along every paved road in Morocco. I don’t think it’s likely that he did that. There were a lot of paved roads in Morocco down which Peace Corps work didn’t take you. His interest was Vietnam, of course, and his second language was French. His knowledge of the French song was limited to Aznavour and I was smitten by Georges Brassens, so there was no meeting of minds there, and while I did like Aznavour, I doubt Dick even knew who Brassens was. We did not hit it off. He was impressed that I was an Ivy grad, but that didn’t hold much interest for me. I thought he was ambitious and shallow. He was ambitious. Others who knew him better can judge his intellect. But in fairness to Holbrooke, he went on to broker the Dayton Peace Accords, and halt the genocide that consumed the Balkans in the early 1990s.
This long digression ends with its primary subject, the mystery women who was no mystery to the Moroccans among whom she lived, and her successor, Al Jessup. None of us Peace Corps volunteers had any interest in spreading Christianity in Morocco. Most of us did not practice our own religions. A few volunteers even converted to Islam! We were in Morocco to help the country any way that we could, but our jobs had nothing to do with religion.
I have noticed, after writing my blog entries about Maude Cary, that American evangelicals have been pushing hard, trying to spread “la Bonne Nouvelle” in Morocco. Under the French Protectorate, there doesn’t seem to have been much of an effort to spread religion. France was a secular state, and it deferred to the nominal ruler, the sultan, as far as religious matters went. France wanted peace and had no interest in provoking any kind of unrest. Some French religious orders ran schools, orphanages, and training centers. After independence, the GOM discouraged missionary activities. The Maude Carys and Al Jessups faded away.
Today, however, American evangelical organizations are mounting an effort to enlarge the sphere of their missionary activities, and enlisting Congressmen to pressure the U.S. State Department. The U.S. Administration views missionary activities as contrary to the wishes of Morocco, and has not supported their requests. Morocco is a long standing ally of the U.S., with which it has enjoyed good relations for many years.
This is a tempest in a teapot, but reflects the rise of the religious right in America, and active attempts to reverse the traditional secular orientation of the U.S. Government. I find it extremely ironic that Americans are so frightened by extreme fundamentalist Islamic organizations, while ignoring the promotion of religious agendas at home. Unlike Morocco, which is almost homogeneous in its religion, and is headed by a ruler who claims the title Commander of The Faithful, the U.S., a nation of many immigrants, has a diversity of religious beliefs and a Constitution which forbids the establishment of an official religion.

Author: Dave

Retired. Formerly school librarian, social studies teacher, and urban planner.

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