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Algeria

The Church grew to be very strong in North Africa in the first six centuries after Christ, producing such famous figures as Augustine, Cyprian and Tertullian. Sadly after the Arab-Muslim invasions the Church was eliminated and disappeared for over a thousand years.

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Barnabas supports a kindergarten for
Christian children in Algeria

However, there has been a great work of the Holy Spirit over the last 25 years, and once again many thousands of Christians are to be found among Algeria’s 31 million population, though they are still a tiny minority in a country that is over 99% Muslim. There are no official records of the number of Christians, but it is thought there may be as many as 80,000.

Christians enjoyed six years of relative religious freedom following the end of the civil war in 2000, but in 2006 new restrictions were introduced by the government after pressure from radical Islamists.

Algerian law gives Christians the freedom to practise their faith so long as they respect public order and (Islamic) morality. Conversion from Islam is not illegal, but evangelism to Muslims is prohibited, and is punishable by a fine or imprisonment.

Mohamed Ibaouene, a Christian convert from Islam in Algeria, was convicted in July 2012 of allegedly pressurising a Muslim to leave Islam. Mohamed said that the Muslim had actually tried to pressure him to return to Islam and had made the accusation only when he refused. Although his jail term was rescinded on appeal, his fine was doubled to 100,000 dinars (around £800; US$1,300).

Other official restrictions on Christian activities include the requirements that all imported Christian literature be approved by the authorities, and that all denominations and places of worship be registered. Many church groups have had official approval withheld for long periods. 

Despite these limitations, many believers practise their faith openly, despite some concerns for their personal safety and possible legal or social problems.

The militant Islamist group al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is active in Algeria and was responsible for a siege at a gas facility in January 2013 in which 37 foreigners were killed. Its presence and influence threatens the long-term safety of the country’s Christians.

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