Rasmi and Maysan* married three years ago and settled into a rented house in downtown Bejaia, less than 3 miles from their local church. Soon they celebrated the birth of their son, David. Life was pleasant for this young married couple, until the owner of their rental house abruptly demanded that they leave because of their Christian faith.
“The owner did not know that my wife and I are Christians, as we did not know each other before. I regularly paid my rent; our relationship was just business,” Rasmi shares. “However, he noticed that every Friday (in Algeria many churches have their church meetings on Friday) my family goes out. One day he asked me about our regular outings. I told him that my wife and I are Christians, and we go every Friday to church. A few days later he came to tell me that he wanted to end the rent.” In one day, the young family became homeless. Fortunately, a Christian couple who attends the same church agreed to host them until they find another house to rent.
“It’s true; it is difficult for us. We were just beginning to have a stable life after the birth of our first child. But God has not abandoned us. He gave us the brothers and sisters of the church at our side, they care about us in this situation,” says Maysan.
This form of discrimination is becoming increasingly prevalent in Algeria. When Christians or churches want to rent or buy houses, or buildings for places of worship, they are frequently denied. Even the government, which is supposed to be independent, works against the Christian community. “When an individual finally agrees to rent us a space, it was sometimes difficult to find a bailiff to formalize the contract, And as soon as it is discovered that it is for a church he would stop helping us,” says a leader of a local church in northern Algeria.
Recently a church in Bejaia was negotiating the purchase of part of a building. The owner wanted to sell, but due to pressure from the neighborhood he changed his mind. “When residents of the building were made aware of our plan, they put pressure on the landlord not to sell to us, and even threatened him with reprisals,” says an official of the Church of Bejaia.
In a separate report, the Christian community in Maatkas, also in north Algeria, is battling the local authorities. Recently, a member of the congregation was offered a piece of land, but when the church leaders asked permission to build a “house of worship,” they were denied permits. When church leaders then asked permission to build a dwelling/residence, that request was also refused.
“When it comes to Christians, there are all kinds of excuses to oppose and this is discrimination against the Christian community,” says a church leader. But he adds that they are determined to continue the fight and obtain the permission to build. “We will not let go. We know that our struggle is not against men, but against the powers of darkness. Our community will continue to strive in prayer until we get the document.”