The Algerian government is getting tougher on house churches. A report from the International Christian Concern (ICC) in the U.S. says the government now allows only 10 people to gather at once, and some church leaders have even been sent to prison.
This crackdown happened around the same time as the conflict between Hamas and Israel. The Algerian government sees Christians as supporting Israel, linking them to foreign influences that they think might harm the country’s Islamic unity.
Adding to the tension is Algeria’s competition with Morocco. In 2020, Morocco and Israel became friends, a deal made with the help of the United States. But Algeria doesn’t like this because it means the U.S. agrees that Morocco has control over Western Sahara, a place Algeria doesn’t agree with. The Voice of the Martyrs ministry says this history makes the situation more complicated.
Long ago, before Islam took over in the seventh century, Algeria was home to the Berbers. Now, mainly in the Kabylie region, the Berbers are rediscovering Christianity. This revival goes back to early Christian roots, like Augustine of Hippo, a Berber from Algeria.
Even though Islam dominated for many years and almost wiped out public Christian worship, Berbers are now reclaiming their Christian heritage. This has caused one of the biggest movements of Muslims turning to Christianity, especially in the Kabyle group. As churches grow and Algerian Christians boldly share their faith, they face more persecution in an already shaky political climate.
Most Algerian Christians come from the Kabyle group, which has a history of wanting independence from the central government. This makes things trickier because the government tries to keep everyone united, and this often clashes with religious matters. Families of new Christians and the local community make life difficult for them, according to the Voice of the Martyrs.
In 2022, the Algerian government shut down at least 16 churches, continuing a trend from the COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020, reports ICC. Even though churches are technically allowed to meet openly, Christians are facing more rules and scrutiny.
But Berber Christians are not giving up. They have joined together in an Evangelical association, standing up for their rights and religious freedom, says the Voice of the Martyrs. They are determined to spread the Gospel, even in places close to al-Qaida terrorist camps, showing their strength.
While it’s not common for people to be put in jail for their beliefs, it has happened. For example, one person was jailed for a social media post. The Bible Society in Algeria is also facing problems printing and bringing in Bibles. The government is closely watching, limiting, and controlling these activities. This stricter control makes it hard for Algerian Christians to openly practice their faith.