Algeria (MNN) — Protests continue this week in Algeria. On Friday, tens of thousands of protestors gathered to march in Algiers – Algeria’s capital city. It was reportedly the largest gathering since protests began four weeks ago.
Demonstrators don’t want their current ruler to seek a fifth term in next month’s elections. President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has ruled Algeria since 1999.
To Voice of the Martyrs’ Todd Nettleton, this is starting to look like the situation in Sudan. Protestors there have demanded their president to step down since December. The request echoes in Algeria.
“The protestors are calling for leadership change,” Nettleton notes. “The president of Algeria has said he is going to run in the upcoming elections there. This would be, I believe, his fourth or fifth term.”
Remembering the Arab Spring
Calls for new leadership in Algeria and Sudan sound eerily similar to calls issued during the 2011 Arab Spring movement. What began as street protests in Tunisia quickly grew to a series of revolts in Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, and Syria.
While regime change is a common theme for past and present protests, key differences set the Algeria and Sudan demonstrations apart. Nonetheless, some elements require a watchful eye and ongoing prayer.
“You start to think back to the Arab Spring, you think back to some of the violence that we saw during that period of time, and it could get ugly,” Nettleton says, referring to the currently-peaceful protests in Algeria.
“When you have an authoritarian government and you have people marching in the street…things could turn in a bad direction.”
What makes Algeria protests different?
As described here, protests began when Bouteflika announced his bid for re-election in the upcoming elections on April 18. These are the biggest demonstrations since Bouteflika came to power two decades ago, observes BBC News. Most protestors are under the age of 30. One-third of this demographic is unemployed.
While frustrated, demonstrators are going out of their way to stay peaceful, Nettleton shares.
“They are going very far to not let the protests become violent. In fact, the president issued a statement today praising the fact that the marchers were peaceful,” he says.
“I even read a report that [said] when the march goes by a hospital, everybody [stays] quiet so that it doesn’t bother the patients who are trying to recover inside the hospitals.”
All of this could change in a moment’s notice. Pray that protests in Algeria remain peaceful. If the government does change, ask the Lord to raise up a leader who protects religious freedom and religious minorities.
“As you talk about the possibility of new leadership and new government, that raises the specter of religious freedom,” says Nettleton.
“A new government could be more Islamic and could persecute Christians more harshly. Or, a new government would perhaps be more open to religious freedom.”
Algeria is one of the North African nations highlighted by VOM USA in this month’s newsletter. Request the newsletter here.
Header image depicts 2011 protests in Algiers. Photo credit Magharebia via Flickr.