How many Christians are there in Algeria?
Christians are a tiny minority in Muslim-majority Algeria. There are around 134,000 in a population of almost 44 million.
What does persecution look like in Algeria?
While Christians make up a tiny percentage of the population of Algeria, they face increasing obstacles to religious freedom. Laws regulating non-Muslim worship ban anything that would "shake the faith of a Muslim" or be used as "a means of seduction intending to convert a Muslim to another religion." A 2006 law repressing worship remains in place, despite a new constitution being introduced in November 2020.
During the past year, several Christians were prosecuted and imprisoned on blasphemy and proselytising charges. Algerian authorities are also waging an ongoing, systematic campaign against the Protestant church: 13 churches that had previously been forcibly sealed remain closed, and another three were forced to shut down.
Most Christians in the country are converts from Islam and as with most countries in North Africa, these believers face strong opposition from their family and community. This can involve harassment, beatings, threats and imprisonment, as well as pressure to adhere to Islamic norms and rites. The pressure and danger faced by Christians is particularly high in the Arab, rural and more religiously conservative parts of the country. In the 1990s, these regions acted as a stronghold for Islamist insurgents in the fight against the government.
Who is most vulnerable to persecution?
In the Arab part of the country, especially the south, life is particularly hard for Christians and the number of churches is very low. Violent Islamic extremists don't have a wide support base among the people, but Islam holds a firm grip over the country. Most Christians live in the Kabyle region in north Algeria. The Kabyle people are a Berber ethnic group, and believers here face discrimination from Algerian authorities for both their faith and their ethnicity.
Pastor Rachid leads a church and runs a bookshop, where he sells Bibles and other Christian books. In February 2021, he and his assistant Nouh were convicted of proselytising and selling books that "shake the faith of Muslims," and given prison sentences. Rachid's church was forcibly closed and sealed in July 2021.
“This is purely an attack against us Algerian Christians and the churches.”
What has changed compared to last year?
Although no churches were closed in 2020, in 2021, three (in the Oran region) were forcibly shut down. Despite appeals from the Algerian church, no churches have been re-opened: the legacy of previous years of persecution remains high in the country.
What does Open Doors do to help Christians in Algeria?
In cooperation with local partners, Open Doors supports the church in North Africa through leadership and discipleship training, Bible and Christian literature distribution, livelihood support, trauma care, relief and legal aid, and women's support groups.
How can you pray for Algeria?
- Pray that Algerian Christians who've converted from Islam will be protected from harassment, violence and rejection.
- Pray for churches that have been closed to reopen, and for laws forbidding religious freedom to be repealed.
- Pray that Open Doors partners in North Africa would be equipped with God's love and wisdom.
Dear Father, thank You that even if churches are closed, nothing can stand in the way of Your children knowing and loving You. Please speak clearly and tenderly to our brothers and sisters who struggle to worship together, and who face such terrible persecution from their families and communities. Provide ways for Christians to worship together and to share the good news of the gospel. Bring breakthrough in places of authority so that laws and regulations opposing Christian practice will be overturned. Amen.