UPDATE: Newly appointed Algerian Prime Minister Ayman Benabderrahmane is infected with COVID-19, Reuters reports. The prime minister will quarantine for seven days but continue performing his duties virtually.
Algeria (MNN) — There may be a new Prime Minister at the helm in Algeria, but persecution isn’t likely to let up. See our full Algeria coverage here.
“The problems Christians face are largely coming from the Ministry of Interior, who looks at the Christian community — especially the Protestant community — and sees them as a political threat. That is why they are clamping down on them,” Daniel Hoffman, Executive Director of Middle East Concern, explains.
“As long as that doesn’t change, the situation for Christians is probably not going to improve.”
When Algeria’s former Prime Minister, Abdelaziz Djerad, resigned in late June, Finance Minister Ayman Benabderrahmane stepped forward to take his place. The president has tasked Benabderrahmane with forming a new government.
It’s only the third vote in Africa’s biggest nation since long-time President Abdelaziz Bouteflika resigned in April 2019. The same protest movement that called for his ouster continues today.
“Some figureheads have changed, but overall, policies towards Christians, [as well as] the wider political direction of the country, will not be affected,” Hoffman says.
As described here, 98-percent of Algeria’s population follows Islam, and the constitution establishes Islam as the national religion. Believers face challenges on many levels, especially those who turn to Christ from a Muslim background.
One believer, “Hamid Soudad, is sentenced under the blasphemy law,” Hoffman says.
“He is accused of having insulted the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad, [and] he has been sentenced to five years in prison…. He is now serving his sentence; even though he’s further appealing, he is in prison at the moment.”
Algerian officials commonly use Islamic laws to persecute the Christian community. See examples here. “In addition to people who have been sentenced to prison, there are court cases involving (church) buildings,” Hoffman says.
“Since late 2017, the government has been closing church buildings and ordering the leadership of the churches to seize their activities … [16 churches have been physically sealed and] another four churches have been closed. Some of them were house churches, so the government could not forcibly seal those buildings, but they have been closed.”
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Despite forced church closures, false accusations, and incarcerations, the Body of Christ is growing. “The Church, especially the Protestant Church, in Algeria is strong,” Hoffman says.
“One of the main reasons the government perceives them as a threat is because they are growing, and they are predominantly composed of Algerians who were born as Muslims and then came to faith [in] Jesus later in life.”
Thank God for continuing to draw people into a saving relationship with Christ despite widespread opposition. “That is continuing, regardless of the actions of the authorities,” Hoffman says.
“The most important things that Algerian Christians [ask] for is prayers; both prayer for the Church in Algeria, they will remain encouraged, that they will remain strong, and for those Christians who have been sentenced or who are currently before the court. [Pray] for them to be released or to be acquitted of the charges.”
Header image is a representative stock photo courtesy of nasro azaizia/Unsplash.