Christianity has its origins in Algeria as early as the 2nd and 3rd centuries.(5) However, the Arab invasions from the 7th century onwards led to the Islamisation of Algeria and the marginalisation of Christians and Jews by the 12th century.
In modern-day Algeria 99% of the population is Sunni Muslim, 1% is Christian or Jewish.(2) Islam is the state religion, although the constitution provides for freedom of belief and practice of one’s religion. Since 2006 citizens have been permitted to change their religion on their ID card.
Conversion is not illegal under civil law, and apostasy is not a criminal offence. However, converts to Christianity from a Muslim background face harassment and discrimination. Attempts to proselytize Muslims are illegal and carry a punishment of one to three years in jail and a fine.
Ordinance 06-03 requires organised religious groups to register with the government, though historically permission has often been withheld. The Catholic Church has traditionally been the only officially recognised non-Muslim religious group in the country. Many other Christian groups, including the Anglican, Seventh-Day Adventist and other Protestant churches, tried to register but were unsuccessful.(6) In practice ordinance 06-03 enabled the government to shut any informal religious service taking place in private homes or in secluded outdoor settings.
A breakthrough came in July 2011 when the Protestant Church of Algeria (EPA) was finally granted government recognition and able to register its congregations throughout the country. Algerian Christians view this as a positive step and hope it will lead to the repealing of other laws that restrict Christian worship.
Many people amongst the Kabylie and other Berber people are coming to Christ. Some churches have seen incredible growth over the last 20 years. In fact, so many are coming to Christ in remote areas that the church is challenged with how to disciple these new believers.7
In April 2011 two Algerian Christian men were arrested on charges of proselytizing and blasphemy. They had been sharing their faith with their neighbours 7.
- Give thanks for the registration of the Protestant Church and pray that local authorities will recognise this right to meet.
- Praise God for the many new believers. Pray they will be able to receive the discipleship they need.
- Pray for Christian satellite TV and radio broadcasts that have been the way by which most new believers have come to faith and which provide much needed Bible teaching and support.
- Pray for those who have been arrested or are being harassed for their faith. Ask God to give them the words to say and to be His witnesses in difficult circumstances.
- Ask God to protect Christians who meet in secret in their homes or in isolated locations.