Algeria (MNN) — At least three churches have been shut down in Algeria during the last two weeks. Currently, there’s very little information as to why the government ordered the sudden shutdowns. But one thing is clear, persecution of the Algerian Church has been growing in the past few months.
Christian Aid Mission’s David Bogosian says this uptick has a lot of believers on edge. There doesn’t seem to be a specific reason why certain individuals and churches are being targeted; it seems random.
Increased Measures Against Christians
For example, a couple years ago a person was stopped at the airport while bringing Christian material into the country. This particular individual’s case never went anywhere until just recently. It seems to Bogosian, the type of persecution currently taking place may be meant to instill fear. After all, the Algerian Church is rapidly growing and Algeria’s main religion is Islam.
“There’s one thing that is happening that some believers are thinking about that may be a cause for the persecution and that is that the second biggest mosque in the Muslim world is about to be launched in Algeria,” Bogosian explains.
“And you know, this has a lot of outside funding and it brings a lot of prestige to the country. So, there’s definitely an attempt by Algeria to gain prominence in the Islamic world. It’s thought that there’s a connection between the opening of that mosque and this persecution.”
The opening of this mosque and the increase in Christian persecution in Algeria could very well be a coincidence. However, it still gives one reason to pause. But, what does a closed church look like in Algeria?
Well, firstly, a lot of churches are held in a rented apartment or house. Pressure can be put on landlords to evict these churches. Or the government may come in and seize property that’s owned by the Christians.
“It doesn’t mean that believers stop meeting. It doesn’t mean that the church is actually gone, it continues to go on. But it means that their physical expression in the community has been closed down,” Bogosian says.
Church Closed, But Not Out-of-Order
Algeria has about 45 visible churches, however, the majority of Christians worship with underground churches or house churches. Still, this visible expression of worship through a physical church has “made a statement and it’s unusual in an Islamic context to even be able to do that.”
Bogosian and other believers think these church closures are the tip of an iceberg attempt to slowly eliminate the physical and visible expression of worship Christians have in Algeria.
Algeria, which ranks at #42 on Open Doors USA’s *World Watch List, has laws regulating non-Muslim worship. And while closed churches don’t mean that Christians stop meeting, it does mean their expression of worship has been stifled.
“It’s important to remember that Islam is not the enemy and that the enemy of our faith is the devil. He deceives people and he uses false religion to cause persecution,” Bogosian explains.
“But the people that are doing the persecution are not the enemy, and Jesus said to pray for your enemies, bless those who persecute you. And that’s the approach we’re to take and you see that in the hearts and the spirit of the Algerian believers. They love Muslim people and they desperately want them to come into the love of Christ.”
Coming to Christ
Bogosian says this love is why so many Muslim believers are turning to Christ in Algeria. It’s a love they’ve never experienced before and it’s transformative. Plus, it’s counter to what they’re currently finding in their own religion, where Muslims are killing Muslims in the name of their common god. In fact, most of the terrorist attacks in the Muslim world in the last 17 years have been Muslims targeting Muslims.
“It happens on an average of about four a day all over the Muslim world. We don’t hear about it. We hear about it when it affects us, when a Christian is killed or when there’s a bombing in Europe or the United States, but not what’s happening every single day in the Muslim world,” Bogosian shares.
How to Pray
With that said, it’s easy to see why the Algerian government could potentially be attempting to shut down Christians’ expression of worship in the country as the Church continues to grow there.
Pray for the Algerian Church—its perseverance, its encouragement, and for Gospel’s work in their lives. Ask God to guide the Algerian leaders and for them to come to know Christ as well.
*Open Doors USA’s World Watch List ranks the 50 top countries where Christians face the most severe persecution.