Algeria (MNN) — Ramadan started last Wednesday for Muslims around the world. In countries like Algeria where Islam is the state religion, Ramadan is strictly observed. Muslims must fast in the daytime as they seek Allah’s favor. And even non-Muslims during Ramadan are forbidden by law from eating and drinking during the day in public.
Life for Algerian Christians is increasingly difficult as the government closes churches and buries the religious group registration process in red tape.
We spoke with Yemathen*, a Christian worker in North Africa with Fidel, a ministry partner of A3 (formerly Asian Access). He says, “It’s so sad to hear that the [church] buildings are shut down because a lot of families come together and also are helping the kids to grow together and teach them in Sunday school and so forth.”
Yet there is hope.
“The government cannot do anything else but close the buildings. The churches actually are forming in different places being together.”
While these small house congregations are still persisting to meet, they feel the impact of having to go underground and how it stifles their programs, especially for young people.
“The youth and the young adults have their own activities, and they work together for their own programs. Unfortunately…they cannot get that in house churches,” Yemathen says.
“However, the churches are still growing. The impact is still the same. The Gospel is spreading. While the government is trying to shut down all the churches because they believe the Christians don’t have the right to exist in a Muslim context, these churches have blossomed and grown over the years, despite the persecution and the difficulties and the harsh persecution that the government has caused them.”
In Algeria, most Christians come from a Muslim background. The country ranks at number 19 for high levels of Christian persecution on the Open Doors World Watch List. Families, friends, and the government target these believers with discrimination and harassment.
Yemathen explains, “They believe the only religion that should exist and has the right to exist in Algeria is the Muslim religion. Politically, they would say that we are open to the Christians, but in the way they perceive they should be and with limitations.
“A number of Christians have counted the cost and they prefer to carry the cross no matter how hard it may be for them, even to a point maybe to lose their lives. They still would consider following Jesus better than anything else.”
Against all odds, however, the underground Church is remaining faithful in Algeria.
“There is a bold witness of those Christians because they have, over the years, discovered that the government or the schools have lied to them about the truth,” Yemathen says. “Now that they have discovered Jesus Christ, they are outspoken about their faith and they believe that God has assigned those times for them to be set free.”
You can be an encouragement to Algerian brothers and sisters in Christ right now. The answer is simple: Pray.
Yemathen says, “Christians over in Algeria are going through difficult times. I think one way you can pray for Algerians is to be bold, to continue to have that bold witness, but also to intercede with them, adopt them in prayers, lift them to the Lord in prayer so that they will continue to withstand the trials and the difficulties no matter what that will lead to in terms of persecution.”
Header photo courtesy of Daoud Abismail via Unsplash.