Algeria: The Crackdown Begins

General February 20, 2008


Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | No. 466 |

The coast of North Africa was once part of the great Roman Empire.
In early Church days, centres such as Alexandria (Egypt) and
Carthage (Tunisia) were not only great centres of Western
civilisation but, despite persecution, were also key sites of
Christian learning, scholarship, debate and propagation. However,
Alexandria fell to the Arab Muslim advance in AD643 and in AD698
Carthage fell. By AD1200, Christianity had all but disappeared from
the Arabised, Islamised, North African coast.

Nevertheless the Holy Spirit has been doing amazing things in North
Africa over recent years. In Algeria, a horrific civil war (the
State v Islamists) has claimed more than 150,000 lives since 1992.
That conflict has now been taken over by Al Qaeda in the Islamic
Maghreb. But by God's providence, just as Islamic terror has been
causing multitudes of Algerians to become disillusioned with Islam,
Christian radio, satellite TV and video/DVD ministries in Arabic
and indigenous languages have become increasingly accessible. Today
there are an estimated 70,000 Christians in Algeria.

However, this is a spiritual battle and a spiritual counter-
offensive has begun. On 20 March 2006 the Algerian parliament
passed Ordinance 06-03 which seriously restricts religious liberty.
Its primary aims are to stop Christian missionary work and
conversions from Islam to Christianity. Algeria's Religious
Endowments Ministry has recently come under a lot of pressure from
political opposition and Islamic leadership to act on the law and do
something about Christian missionaries and conversions. Adding to
the pressure, Algerian media have been propagating anti-Christian
messages, even equating Christian missionaries with terrorists. On
18 February the Algerian daily El Kharbar reported that the head of
the Algerian Muslim Scholars Association claimed that the
Evangelical Church in Algeria is 'Zionist', politically motivated
and a threat to the State and should therefore be under the scrutiny
of the security services. On 21 January 2008 Algeria's Religious
Endowments Minister Bouabdellah Ghlamallah promised 'harsh and
deterrent' penalties for Christian missionaries.

On 5 February 2008, three Protestant leaders learned they would soon
be sentenced to three years' imprisonment and fined 500000 dinars
(US$4600) for 'attacking religion and the person of the Prophet'. A
Catholic priest, Father Pierre Wallez, was arrested after he visited
and prayed with a group of believers in a private home on 29
December 2007. The Roman Catholic Bishops Conference reported on 10
February that Fr Wallez has been convicted of violating Algeria's
anti-proselytism law and sentenced to one year in prison,
subsequently commuted to parole. The Algiers archdiocesan office
also reported that a young Muslim doctor was sentenced to two years
without parole for using medicines 'paid for by Caritas (a Catholic
mission)'. Furthermore in November 2007 Algerian authorities
withdrew residency permission from four young Brazilian priests who
were working with Portuguese-speaking African immigrants. A
crackdown has begun.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT -

* God will give all Algerian Christians - especially pastors,
evangelists and community leaders - divine wisdom, courage,
words and grace so that they may be 'wise as serpents and as
innocent as doves' as they continue to worship and witness in an
increasingly hostile environment. (Matthew 10:16-20)

* God will protect, strengthen and bless those ministries he has
used in building his Church in North Africa: Arabic gospel
radio, satellite and literature ministries, as well as
evangelistic and holistic ministries on the ground.

* the government of President Bouteflika will make a stand against
Islamic intolerance and for modernity and liberty by repealing
Ordinance 06-03; may God give them the insight to see and the
courage to admit it is Islam that threatens Algeria, not
Christianity.

* God will use these days to further penetrate the hearts of
Algerian Muslims, including 'spies' (Muslims who infiltrate the
churches to inform on them), judges, human rights advocates and
investigative journalists; may the Holy Spirit prepare many more
hearts to receive the gospel.

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SUMMARY TO USE IN BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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ALGERIA: THE CRACKDOWN BEGINS

In March 2006 the Algerian parliament passed a law specifically
aimed at stopping Christian missionary activity and conversions
from Islam to Christianity. The government has recently come under
great pressure to implement this law and counter the missionary
'threat' and the 'problem' of conversions. It appears a crackdown
has begun. On 5 February three Protestant leaders were told they
will soon be imprisoned and fined for 'attacking religion and the
person of the Prophet'. On 10 February Father Pierre Wallez was
sentenced to one year in prison (later commuted to parole) for
praying with believers in a private home, a violation of the new
law. At the same time, a young Muslim doctor was sentenced to two
years without parole for using medicines 'paid for by Caritas (a
Catholic mission)'. Please pray for the Church in Algeria.

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The WEA Religious Liberty Commission sponsors this
RL Prayer List to help individuals and groups pray
specifically and regularly for religious liberty
issues, and in particular to uphold the Church
where it is suffering persecution.

RL Prayer is moderated by Ron Clough, a commissioner
of the WEA RLC and convenor of the Australian EA RLC.
Elizabeth Kendal researched and authored this message.