Many of the cathedrals in Algeria built under French occupation (as well as old synagogues) have been turned into mosques or civic halls. So it goes - all's fair in love and war, right? - especially since most Christians and Jews fled Algeria post-Independence. But what about the Christians who remain in Algeria today? The state's repression of this tiny community is not pretty:
Police issued written orders for three Algerian churches to cease activity this week, bringing to 19 the number of congregations told to shut down since November, an Algerian Protestant leader said.
In addition to the three churches, registered under the Protestant Church of Algeria (EPA), two independent congregations were verbally ordered to close their doors, EPA President Mustapha Krim said.
The church closures come amid a flurry of antagonistic media articles warning of campaigns by Protestants to “Christianize” Algeria...
But some critics have responded that Algeria’s Christians, not its Muslim majority, are the ones being attacked.
“The repression of evangelist proselytism has turned into the harassment of Christians,” columnist Mustapha Hammouche wrote in Liberte on Tuesday (March 25).
Indeed, Algerian Christians have claimed that the government has blocked them from carrying out the required re-registration of their churches.
“The administration offices in Tizi-Ouzou did not want to or could not say which measures to take in order to obtain the famous ‘certificate of conformity,’” church leaders wrote on March 26. They said the certificate was required to show that they were in line with a new March 2006 law governing non-Muslim places of worship.
“[The] result: the churches are closed, services forbidden, and nothing can change the situation!” reported the Algerian Christian website collectifalgerie.free.fr on March 26.
The Algerian authorities are clearly spooked by Christian evangelism. Is it be possible that the most effective dissident movement in North Africa is the one led by missionaries? Why else would the Algerian government be so afraid of what seems like a fringe phenomenon?