Christians are a tiny minority in Muslim-majority Algeria. There are around 129,000 in a population of just over 43.3 million.
The majority of Christians in Algeria are converts from Islam. They are most at risk of persecution, not just from their family and extended family, but from the wider community. This can involve harassment, beatings, threats and imprisonment, as well as pressure to adhere to Islamic customs.
Pressure is also exerted by state officials receptive to the teachings of radical Islamic teachers. They use their influence to limit the freedoms of converts, including preventing them from expressing their views in public.
Those living in the rural and religiously more conservative parts of Algeria – which acted as a stronghold for Islamist insurgents in the fight against the government in the 1990s – are particularly exposed to pressure and danger.
Laws regulating non-Muslim worship prohibit anything that would ‘shake the faith of a Muslim’ or be used as ‘a means of seduction intending to convert a Muslim to another religion’.
And in the past three years, authorities in Algeria have engaged in a systematic campaign against EPA churches (Protestant Church of Algeria), which has seen 16 churches forcibly closed by the authorities. Others have received orders to cease all activities.
Local believers do not believe that the new constitution, approved by two-thirds of the (low) turn-out of voters in November 2020, will improve life for Christians. "Personally, I think that nothing has changed compared to the old constitution since the two previous constitutions guarantee the freedom of worship," says a local pastor. "But both say in respect of the law from 2006 the regulates worship. We know that this law is repressive and is destroying freedom. Until the 2006 ordinance is repealed, the Christian Algerian community will always be persecuted."
“We see signs of a new revival. Muslims are coming to us; they are tired, and some clearly and openly say, ‘We want to know Christ.’” Muslih
On discovering possession of a Bible, one family beat their 24-year-old son and took him by force to the local mosque. He was placed under such intense pressure that he denied his faith in Christ. He has subsequently returned to the Christian faith, but lives out his faith in secret.
In a similar story, a 38-year-old convert was taken to the local Iman to recant his Christian faith, which he refused to do. Having fled his town, he now lives in a hidden place, knowing that if his family finds him, they will kill him.
Algeria has dropped seven places from last year’s World Watch List ranking. This is in large part due to a substantial reduction in incidents of violence against Christians. However, this does not mean the effects of past persecution is over — for instance, in 2019 there were multiple church closures in Algeria. There were not as many this year, but the churches that were shutdown remain closed. These closures are not included in this year’s report, but nonetheless continue to affect the Christian community in Algeria.
Since the report, church closures have continued - in July 2021, three churches in the Oran area of Algeria were sealed, bringing the total to 16.
Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters in Algeria. Your gifts and prayers make an enormous difference to those following Jesus no matter the cost.
In cooperation with local partners, Open Doors supports the church in North Africa through training, literature distribution and advocacy support.
Heavenly Father, grant Your people favour with the authorities and move their hearts to reopen all closed churches and repeal the 2006 law regulating worship. Strengthen Your people in the face of enormous pressure; may they stand firm, shine brightly for You, and be kept from harm. Establish and build strategic relationships between Christians and local leaders of influence, which can be used to quell the hostility that many Christians experience. Amen.
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