EASTON, MD — Christians in North Africa, where less than 1% of the population follows Christianity, are facing a new year of escalating persecution in the shadow of the Holy Land conflict.
There are only a handful of evangelical churches still open in Algeria, where the government is raiding and systematically shutting down Christian places of worship, according to faith-based media organization SAT-7 USA (www.sat7usa.org), which has broadcast studios in North Africa and the Middle East.
“Persecution is like a crown we wear on our heads every single day,” said Samia Kessai, a SAT-7 presenter in Algeria. “It’s very difficult to be a Christian here. My son cannot understand why (our) church is closed.”
Of the 47 churches in Algeria’s Protestant organization — L’Eglise Protestante d’Algerie (EPA) — 43 were ordered to shut their doors, according to a report in The Spectator. The EPA’s vice-president, pastor Youssef Ourahmane, a dual Algerian-British citizen, was sentenced to a year in prison for holding an “unauthorized” church service. All churches must have a government license to operate.
Algeria, which is 99% Muslim, continues to “escalate its ongoing repression of religious minorities,” particularly the small-yet-growing evangelical community, said the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, citing raids on two of the “largest Protestant churches in the country.”
The Algerian government reportedly aims to close every church in the country, according to one Christian leader.
The crackdown also restricts the size of house church gatherings and limits the import of Bibles and Christian books.
Algerian Christians are turning to media channels, which are virtually uncensorable, as their ability to exercise their faith in public comes under mounting pressure.
Amid heightened tensions in the region, SAT-7’s Arabic-language programs on satellite television and social media channels — hosted by local presenters and free to watch — are the only “church” many North African believers are able to participate in.
Social media, especially, gives them the opportunity to chat and worship with other Arabic-speaking believers in real-time and join live Christian programs on their phones and digital devices.
“Believers here are young in their faith and thirsty to know more,” said Kessai. “They open their hearts and their homes. It’s like the early Church in the Bible. Everyone has their mind set on Christ, not worrying about other things. We share everything.”
Launched in 1996, SAT-7 (www.sat7usa.org) — with its international headquarters in Cyprus — broadcasts Christian and educational satellite television and online programs to the Middle East and North Africa. Its mission is to make the gospel available to everyone, and support the church in its life, work and witness for Christ.
CONTACT: Nicole Ponder, 321-586-2332, email@example.com
Source: Christian News Wire, Christians in North Africa Face ‘New Year of Persecution’