What it’s like to be beaten for following Jesus in Algeria

October 29, 2019 by Christopher Summers in Persecution updates

As best as Pastor Salah can guess, there are two reasons his church was shut down and why he and some of his congregants were beaten by Algerian authorities last week.

 

“I think [the Algerian authorities are] afraid of the church; it’s a government [in a Muslim-majority country], so they don’t like us very much because we are mostly Muslim-background Christians,” he says.

Last week we told you about Pastor Salah’s church in Algeria. During a Tuesday night worship service, Pastor Salah was telling his congregation the authorities were going to close the church the next day—they were targeted for being “unauthorized.” He expected the police to come the next day to oversee the closure. But instead, at the end of the service, Algerian police burst in, forcibly removing people and beating others before finally sealing up the church.

“[The police] were supposed to come the day after so it was a huge surprise for us to see them coming at that time on that day,” Pastor Salah says. “They asked us to go out from the church building, but we refused to do this. [Because] we refused, they closed and sealed all the doors to the other rooms of the church and then came to us, asking us to go out of the church building. [Again,] we refused.”

Their refusal led to serious consequences. “After we refused to go out of the worship room, they started beating us,” Pastor Salah says. “[When] we saw them using violence against brothers and sisters here at the church, we didn’t want to go forward with our resistance so we [agreed] to go outside the worship room. In the end they sealed the main door that gets to the worship room.”

The shocking persecution of Algerian believers
The shocking persecution of Algerian believers

Pastor Salah says several people were injured in the attack, in which the police used batons and fists, and carried people out of the main worship room by force. “We have at least four people that were wounded during this assault,” he says. “We even have doctors’ notes for people [because they needed] six-to-eight [days off work].”

The aftermath

Pastor Salah says that, in the moment, he felt “injustice, anger and disappointment.”

“[We] experienced injustice and unfairness,” he says. “We even tried [to talk to] the police matter, and said that, ‘You are applying injustice and what you are doing is illegal.’” Clearly, the police didn’t listen.

Pastor Salah has some ideas about why they were targeted by police for closure. “The official reason they gave us is the [church is an] unauthorized [place of] worship,” he says. “But it has no basis [in fact] so it’s just to cover—to justify what they are doing because there was [official] authorization. But there is no church in Algeria that has this [authorization]!” He believes they were targeted specifically because their congregation is mostly made up of Christians who converted from Islam, the dominant religion in Algeria.

In Algeria, it’s against the law to “shake the faith” of a Muslim, and there is always a chance that sharing the gospel could result in an accusation of blasphemy against Christians. Converting to Christianity in Algeria can carry a heavy price for these believers. “Some couples are divorced because one of the spouses is Christian and the other is Muslim,” Pastor Salah says. “And [even for some believers,] the authorities don’t allow them to use nurses and to [receive] economic [help] just because they are Christians.”

How we can pray

Pastor Salah asks believers around the world to pray for two specific requests:

“I think that our fight is not against flesh and blood; we are asked to fight the dominion of dark powers, so our prayer request is that these dark powers of Satan will be cast away from Algeria, these powers that are blinding the authorities of our country.”

“I would like you to pray for me for the wisdom to know what to say in the right time; the thing I need most is wisdom.”

Pastor Salah isn’t sure what’s next. But he is confident that God is still with His people in Algeria. “[In the immediate future], we will maybe organize ourselves in house churches, and we will carry out lawsuits and political procedures,” Pastor Salah says. “I don’t have any bitterness in my heart against those policemen that have beaten us or those who have ordered the church to close.” Pastor Salah says he agrees “100 percent” with the biblical passages about forgiving his enemies.

Another passage of the Bible has been a comfort to him in the last week: Matthew 5:11. In that verse, Jesus says “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.”

“Even before last week, it was the passage of Scripture that was encouraging me all the time,” the pastor says. “I am hopeful the situation of the church will be better than it is right now, and the future of the church will be prospered.”

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