President Abdelmadjid Tebboune
While Christians make up a tiny percentage of the population of Algeria, they face increasing obstacles to religious freedom. Laws regulating non-Muslim worship ban anything that would “shake the faith of a Muslim” or be used as “a means of seduction intending to convert a Muslim to another religion.” A 2006 law repressing worship remains in place, despite a new constitution being introduced in November 2020.
During the past year, several Christians were prosecuted and imprisoned on blasphemy and proselytizing charges. Algerian authorities are also waging an ongoing, systematic campaign against the Protestant church: 13 churches that had previously been forcibly sealed remain closed, and another three were forced to shut down.
Most Christians in the country are converts from Islam and, as with most countries in North Africa, these believers face strong opposition from their family and community. This can involve harassment, beatings, threats and imprisonment, as well as pressure to adhere to Islamic norms and rites. The pressure and danger faced by Christians is particularly high in the Arab, rural and religiously more conservative parts of the country. In the 1990s, these regions acted as a stronghold for Islamist insurgents in the fight against the government.
“This is purely an attack against us Algerian Christians and the churches.”
Pastor Rachid leads a church and runs a bookshop, where he sells Bibles and other Christian books. In February 2021, he and his assistant Nouh were convicted of proselytizing and selling books that “shake the faith of Muslims,” and given prison sentences. Rachid’s church was forcibly closed and sealed in July 2021.
Although no churches were closed in 2020, in 2021, three (in the Oran region) were forcibly shut down. Despite appeals from the Algerian church, no churches have been re-opened: the legacy of previous years of persecution remains high in the country.
In the Arab part of the country, especially the south, life is particularly hard for Christians and the number of churches is very low. Violent Islamic extremists don’t have a wide support base among the people, but Islam holds a firm grip over the country. The majority of Christians live in the Kabyle region in north Algeria. The Kabyle people are a Berber ethnic group, and believers here face discrimination from Algerian authorities for both their faith and their ethnicity.
In cooperation with local partners, Open Doors supports the church in North Africa through leadership and discipleship training, Bible and Christian literature distribution, livelihood support, trauma care, relief and legal aid, and women’s support groups.