Algeria: Needs Peace for Openness

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Algeria is potentially a most strategic North African nation. For
decades it has been wracked by war, political instability and
Islamic terrorism. Through the 1980s escalating unemployment and
poverty led to widespread anger against the military-backed
totalitarian regime. Consequently, Islamic groups that promised
rescue by means of an Islamic state won widespread popular support.
In January 1992, after the first round of parliamentary elections
made it clear the fundamentalist Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) was
positioned to win, the Assembly was dissolved and the Army took
control. Clashes erupted between the FIS and the security forces
and a state of emergency was declared. The FIS was ordered to
disband and all 411 FIS-controlled local and regional authorities
were dissolved. The Islamic Salvation Army (AIS, the FIS’ militant
wing) and the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) retaliated with horrific
massacres of civilians, especially during Ramadan. It is estimated
150,000 people have died in the conflict.

In 1999 Abdelaziz Bouteflika, eventually the only candidate, was
elected as president. After long and largely secret negotiations
with the AIS, Boutiflika launched a ‘civil reconciliation’
initiative. The program was endorsed overwhelmingly in a
referendum. Subsequently more than 5000 AIS militants surrendered
their weapons in exchange for amnesty. Largely because his peace
initiative was so effective, Boutiflika was re-elected in April
2004 in a landslide poll, deemed free and fair by international
monitors. However, it is estimated some 1000 jihadists are still at
large. On 29 September 2005, Boutiflika held another referendum on
granting amnesty to Islamists who surrender and lay down their
weapons. Those guilty of rapes, massacres and bombings are not
eligible for amnesty. Whilst the al Qaeda-linked Salafist Group for
Preaching and Combat (GSPC) officially rejected the offer, some 300
Algerian Salafite militants have already indicated via their
families that they wish to surrender and accept the government’s
proposed amnesty (AKI 3 October).

The amnesty is highly controversial and generally opposed by human
rights groups who say it grants impunity to terrorists and
circumvents justice. However, of the 80 percent of Algeria’s
eligible electors who voted in the referendum, 97 percent supported
the amnesty. This amnesty could greatly weaken the jihadist
movement in Algeria and further advance peace. But for genuine long-
lasting peace, it needs to be part of a comprehensive restorative
justice program, as distinct from punitive or retributive justice.
That requires everybody’s co-operation and must include truth,
repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation. So, to honour this
forgiveness offered sacrificially by the people, the government
must follow up the amnesty with a truth commission that involves
jihadists and security forces, and a comprehensive national
reconciliation program. Without these, any peace will only be
temporary as the sores will simply fester.

Algeria is so important because the decade of horrific Islamic
terror has led actually to a widespread revulsion and rejection of
hard-line, political and militant Islam. On top of this,
nationalist movements have arisen with indigenous non-Arabs like
the Berbers actively resisting Arabisation. Berbers who are some 40
percent of the population are searching for and reviving their
ethnic identity. This involves exploring their pre-Arab/Islamic
heritage and culture. Today there is a growing spiritual openness
amongst these peoples. The Bible Society has recently been
permitted to re-open in Algeria. President Boutiflika is keen to
revise family law and women’s rights. He also wants to open the
country to Europe and the West, but for that he needs peace and
security. So we pray for good governance and peace to open the door
and eventually give Algerians religious liberty.


* courage, perseverance and grace for the very small but growing
Christian Church in Algeria, as persecution of Muslim converts
to Christianity (especially Arabs) can be intense.

* God to protect the Church as individuals and as a Body, comfort
her, provide her material and spiritual needs, and bestow
boldness from the Holy Spirit.

* God to use those in authority in Algeria as his instrument for
reform and true peace-making; may there be truth, repentance,
forgiveness and reconciliation, for the sake of the future, the
people, the Church, and the gospel in the nation. (1 Tim 2:1-4)

‘Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I
have grasped… to open doors before him that gates may not be
closed…’ See Isaiah 45:1-8

* God to use Christian radio and satellite programs, local
Christian witness and supernatural means to speak into Muslim
hearts as they reflect on spiritual matters during Ramadan; may
their eyes be opened to see Jesus Christ the Redeemer, the
Prince of Peace.

* religious liberty to become a reality in Algeria, and for
righteousness and praise to spread across the nation. (Isaiah




From 1992 to 2002, some 150,000 Algerians died in a civil war
between Islamists and security forces. However, President
Boutiflika’s civil reconciliation program has made great progress
in quelling Islamist violence. On 29 September, nearly all the 80
percent turnout of eligible Algerians voted to offer amnesty to
Islamists who surrender. This would seriously weaken the thousand
jihadists still fighting in Algeria if large numbers surrender. But
for a long-lasting peace, there needs to be a comprehensive
restorative justice program, which includes truth, repentance,
forgiveness and reconciliation. Please pray that this eventuates,
as the decade of Islamic terror has turned most Algerians away from
political Islam towards reform and openness. Churches, especially
those amongst the indigenous non-Arab Berbers, have been growing,
and openness and religious liberty are desperately needed.

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Elizabeth Kendal researched and auth
ored this message.