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Churches face trouble amid Algeria’s political stalemate

Algeria (MNN) — Algeria has been in a state of flux since ousting longtime leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika in early April. An upcoming presidential election – previously slated for July 4 – is now off the books. Protestors remain in the streets today for the 16th straight week.

Director of Middle East Concern, Daniel Hoffman, summarizes the situation this way: “The powers-that-be do not want to give up. They want to portray themselves as the only ones who can keep peace and order in the country, and lead a country to elections…. But the population and especially the demonstrators do not trust them.

“They want the powers-that-be to leave before there are elections. Therefore, you have the stalemate that we’re seeing now.”

What happens next is anyone’s guess. It may lead to negotiations, Brookings Institute observes. Prayerfully, it would not lead to conflict between state forces and protestors. Regardless, it’s not an easy time for Algerian believers, Hoffman says.

What’s it like to be a Christian in Algeria?

algeria

(Photo courtesy of SofieLayla Thal via Pixabay)

According to Open Doors USA’s World Watch List, Algeria is the world’s 22nd-most difficult place to be a Christian. On its website, MEC describes some of the difficulties believers face in this North African nation.

“At the root of it lies a law, or a presidential decree, that was adopted in 2006 [and] regulates worship of non-Muslim [communities]…. That underlies pressure on all the existing church buildings of the EPA – the Protestant Church of Algeria,” Hoffman says.

The EPA serves as a legally-recognized umbrella organization for smaller churches scattered throughout the country which cannot obtain government authorization.

Since 2006, persecution comes and goes in waves, Hoffman adds. The latest increase began at the end of 2017 when Algerian authorities visited churches and informed pastors they needed to shut their doors.

“I think the government – or at least the Bouteflika government – was not very popular, and was trying to unite the country and unite society around an identity of Algerians as an Arab Islamic country,” Hoffman explains. “Anything that could threaten that, like the indigenous Algerian Christian community,… they face increasing pressure.

“When the government feels under pressure from society to prove their Islamic credentials, they increase the pressure on the Church.”

Recent months were no exception. “In the run-up to the elections, [originally] scheduled for April… the government very much tried to reinforce that perceived unifying identity of Algeria as an Arab Islamic country,” says Hoffman.

On May 22, authorities forced the closure of a church led by Pastor Youcef Ourahmane – the vice president of the EPA. His is the fourth church forcibly closed in recent months.

How to help

Now that you know, how will you respond? Hoffman requests prayer. Ask the Lord to uphold His people in Algeria through this ongoing trial.

“At this point in time, it is very important to pray for the whole country of Algeria…. It’s quite a mess, and there is no obvious way out.”

(Photo courtesy of congerdesign via Pixabay)

Pray for a peaceful transition of power. Pray the revolution will not turn violent, as it has in Sudan.

“Specifically, we can pray for our Christian brothers and sisters as well,” Hoffman adds. Pray that “the problems they’re facing in terms of the closed church buildings, the non-recognition of the EPA, and other things, those problems will be solved.

“[Pray] believers will stand strong [under] the pressure and will be a shining light to those around them in these uncertain and troubling times in Algeria.”

Header image courtesy of Pixabay.

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