Ali Touahir knows the high cost of giving his life to Christ in a strongly Islamic country. He became a Christian in 2012 after a Christian friend introduced him to Jesus. Because he renounced Islam, he was threatened with death for apostasy. His Muslim wife strongly opposed his new faith and left him in June 2013, taking their seven-year-old daughter with her. At a court hearing in January 2014, the judge suggested that Ali renounce his Christian faith, but he refused.
North Africa was a bastion of early Christianity, but Christianity was wiped out in Algeria after the Arab-Muslim invasions. Over the last 25 years many Muslims have been turning to Christ, disillusioned by the rise in radical Islam, and the violence between Islamists and the military-backed government of 1992 2002. Algerian Muslims have been questioning aspects of their religion and expressing genuine interest in Christianity. Remarkably, there are now perhaps 8o,ooo in a population that is over 99% Muslim. Many of the Algerian converts are Berbers, indigenous to North Africa and often alienated from the Arab population.
Relative religious freedom followed the end of the civil war in 20oo, but government regulations introduced in 20o6 have severely restricted Christian activity. It is not illegal for Muslims to convert to Christianity, but all forms of evangelism to Muslims are prohibited and punishable by a fine or up to five years’ imprisonment. All imported Christian literature must be approved by the authorities and all denominations and places of worship must be registered. Authorities sometimes deny approval to church groups, so they cannot lawfully meet. Even so, sharia is not widely enforced and Algerian believers have some degree of freedom to practise their faith if they respect Islamic morality and public order. Al-Qaeda continues to be active in Algeria, causin insecurity for the country’s Christian population.
Praise God for the renewed interest in Christianity among Algeria’s overwhelming Muslim majority and for each new convert who boldly counts the cost of their decision. Pray for strength and wisdom for each and every Algerian believer to stand firm amidst great loneliness and suffering. Pray that the restrictions on Christian literature and places of worship will be relaxed so that Algerian believers will be able to meet together for prayer and worship. Pray too that the rules concerning Christian evangelism among Muslims will be eased so that believers will be able to share their faith without fear.