Published: 10:09 GMT Standard Time - Thursday 18 February 2010
Praying for the Persecuted Church in Lent - Algeria
Project(s): 02-036, 02-367, 02-570
By 200 AD there were many well-established churches in the region that is today’s Algeria. Yet after the invasion of Arab Muslims in 670 AD, Christianity began to decline. A further influx of Arabs in the 11th century tipped the balance decisively in favour of Islam, and it is held that by 1160 the Church in Algeria was extinct. Despite the endeavours of many missionaries over the following centuries very few Algerians responded to the Gospel. It was not until the 1970s that the Church began to grow significantly.
Since independence in 1962 Algeria has been a secular state, with 99% of its population being Sunni Muslim. After six years (2000-2006) of relative religious freedom, radical Islamists are again pushing for more restrictions, especially on Christian mission. New regulations were passed in 2006 imposing fines and imprisonment on anyone who “seduces” a Muslim to convert to another religion or possesses materials likely to “shake the faith of a Muslim”.
The right to assemble for worship or outreach is also severely limited, and several well-established churches were briefly closed in 2008. The importing of Christian literature has been made more difficult, and Christians working for the government are less likely than Muslims to gain promotion. However, many courageous Christian leaders have boldly resisted the new regulations, including the closure of churches. In the face of this, it seems that the Algerian authorities may have decided not to enforce the new law in a rigorous way.