Persecuted Algerians 'confident in God,' convert says
ALGERIA (BP) -- Christians in Algeria "are optimistic and confident in God" in the midst of persecution, an Algerian convert told Baptist Press after the government closed churches and beat believers.
"This affects me personally because the church that was just closed watched as I became a Christian. It was there that I gave my life to Jesus and there that I took my first steps as a Christian," she said. "I am still closely connected to this church even though I live in Europe now."
Baptist Press communicated with the Christian through the aid of an International Mission Board church planter in Europe, where the Algerian woman now lives and is being discipled. BP is not identifying either for safety concerns.
Among recent church closures, the Algerian government raided and sealed three churches between Oct. 14 and 16, Morning Star News reported. Over the past two years, the government has closed 14 Protestant churches in what religious liberty advocate Open Doors has termed a "systematic campaign" against Protestant and Independent Christian churches. Churches included in the latest closures, Morning Star said, are the Protestant Church of the Full Gospel of Tizi-Ouzou, the largest Protestant church in Algeria with about 700 members; the Source of Light church in Makouda with 500 worshipers; and the Tafath (Light) church building in Tizi-Ouzou, where about 150 worship.
In sealing the largest congregation, police beat the pastor and injured members. Algerian police arrested 17 Christians Thursday (Oct. 17) who were peacefully protesting the closures, Open Doors said, but released them without any stated charges.
In the northern African country, Christians are only 125,000 among more than 41 million Sunni Muslims.
The Algerian Christian BP interviewed accepted Christ after God healed her brother, she told BP.
"It was following the healing of my little brother at this same church who had a serious sickness that I had doubts about my old religion," she said. "I prayed and God revealed Himself to me.... I saw God's love and peace through the people of this church."
The majority of Christians in Algeria are members of the Protestant Church of Algeria (EPA). Algerian Christians are concerned about the government's intentions, a pastor told religious liberty advocate International Christian Concern (ICC).
"We are concerned about the situation because we do not know how far this will go, and what are the intentions of our authorities," the pastor said. "I want to share with you what is going on with us, and invite you to join us in prayer, because the situation is critical."
Laws regulate the exercise of any religion other than Islam, according to Open Doors.
Algeria is listed 22nd among 50 countries on Open Doors' 2019 World Watch List of the countries where Christians are most persecuted.
"Algeria's blasphemy laws make it difficult for Christians to share their faith out of fear their conversation may be considered blasphemous and used against them," Open Doors wrote in its report. "In Algeria, it's forbidden by law to 'shake the faith' of a Muslim or to use 'means of seduction' to convert a Muslim to another religion.
"Christians also suffer from harassment and discrimination in their daily life. Family members and neighbors try to force converts to adhere to Islamic norms and follow Islamic rites," Open Doors wrote.