While serving underprivileged foreign citizens, a group of young volunteers suddenly found themselves fleeing for their lives when the people they were trying to assist threatened to cut off their heads. Disturbingly, they soon realized it was because of a mistake the charity workers made that offended their religion.
For over 15 years, Belgian charity Bouworde has been sending young volunteers to assist in relief work in Morocco. During these excursions, teens labor on construction projects, which often include repairing water reservoirs, building schools, and cleaning up devastated neighborhoods. Despite the incredible charity they provide, there are still some who are so beholden to tradition that they refuse to allow outsiders to help them.
Some would say that compassion is the most admirable of virtues. However, if this empathy isn’t tempered by logic, it can make for a deadly characteristic which can easily be abused and punished.
According to Morocco World News, a group of teen girls who were helping to clean up a construction site in the village of Adar was forced to flee for their lives after some of the villagers threatened to behead them for “wearing shorts.” The majority-Islamic population took offense to the clothing the volunteers were wearing, rejecting the charity’s help due to religious and cultural differences.
The incitement of violence was made against the girls by a young Muslim teacher in the country’s northern region. Once the charity leaders were made aware of the hit, the teens were immediately escorted out of the area. The embassy also advised the organization not to allow any other volunteers to head to Morocco “under the current circumstances.”
“You are right! Their heads should be cut off so that no one else dares to challenge the teachings of our religion,” a 26 year old teacher from northern Morocco wrote about the girls in a Facebook group of more than 500,000 teachers.
Footage circulated of the girls in shorts and t-shirts as they collected rubble and poured cement in order to pave a road to a nearby village, RTL reports. Although most comments were positive, the video quickly garnered the attention of some who voiced their outrage over the youths’ choice of clothing.
Disturbingly, a parliamentary member of the Justice and Development Party (PJD) seemed to justify the threat, asking, “Since when do Europeans do construction work in swimwear?” The threat comes just months after two Scandanavian tourists were beheaded in the Atlas Mountains, which are situated in the heart of Morocco.
After the threats arose, the leftist Party of Progress and Socialism (PPS) unsuccessfully attempted to quell the outrage. The party issued a statement denouncing the violent rhetoric, claiming that this type of reaction is not representative of Morocco. Additionally, the organization called for those making such statements to “publicly apologize.”
“In addition to harming our country’s reputation and the progress we have made in terms of individual freedoms, peaceful coexistence, and openness, these kinds of declarations constitute a deliberate incitation to extremism and the rejection of the other,” PPS’s statement said of the tide of criticism the girls encountered.
The teacher who made the beheading threat was eventually taken into police custody. However, the call to violence is still being perpetuated, making it difficult for the charity to continue working with locals. The teacher was later indicted on charges of inciting terrorism.
Only 3 of the 37 volunteers associated with Bouworde have chosen to return to Belgium. The rest are determined to regain the confidence of the outrage mob or, at least, to help those who want their assistance. Unfortunately, they are risking their young lives without fully comprehending the present danger.
Although these charity volunteers had the best of intentions, they have learned a hard lesson in the danger of blind compassion. While charity is a virtue to be praised, it can easily be abused and punished if left void of reason.