ALGERIAN UNREST: FUELED BY A HISTORY OF CONFLICT
Following three weeks spent ministering on the ground in Algeria, Ali shares his take on current events there.
After gaining independence from France on June 1, 1962, Algeria struggled into nationhood under several short-lived presidents. When army chief of staff Houari Boumediene seized control for over 13 years, his Stalin-esque brand of socialism offered little freedom. All the aspirations of this young nation of 2 million people, newly freed from the French yoke, were buried under that ruthless system.
Several democratic demonstrations sparked revolts but these were soon crushed. A series of military-backed leaders oversaw the next two turbulent decades, which included a horrible civil war. After Abdelaziz Bouteflika became president in 1999, he amended the constitution to allow himself as many terms as he wanted.
A Cry for Change
It was Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth presidential term that sparked the latest round of protests. On February 16, 2019, people took over the streets of every city. Their peaceful nationwide demonstrations forced Bouteflika to resign on April 2. Next they brought about the arrest of most of Bouteflika’s family and friends for corruption. Still seeking removal of all the ruling elite, the protest, now dubbed “Al Heerak” (the Movement), continues with massive demonstrations every Friday.
These marches increase the pressure on de facto leader Ahmed Gaid Salah, the army chief of staff. Salah, watching the nation’s economy and its entire infrastructure suffer, has pushed for the election of a new president soon. But Al Heerak, wanting no more military influence in politics, is demanding a transition process toward civilian presidential elections. Recently the group has threatened insurrection if its conditions are not met.
Repercussions on the Church
Further aggravating these tensions is the current government’s intimidation of Christians in Algeria. Two years of mounting persecution have led to the closures of at least five more churches in the last few months alone.
As Christians continue meeting outside their closed buildings, it is fully possible that hatred and retaliation may erupt. Already, each mention of Christians in the media seeks to alarm the populace and to urge authorities to take action against them.
Algerian believers take one of two views of their troubles. Some oppose the closure of churches, and would do anything to recover use of their buildings. Others hold that church closures will serve to purge the Church of its craving for buildings and resources for ministry; thus the persecution is necessary and inevitable.
How will these events play out? Will the current government be completely removed and replaced by a civil society which might allow the church to exist under a new charter of the constitution? Or will it stay on to prosecute church leaders and ban Christian activity?
Behind the Scenes
The Algerian people’s exposure to the gospel is no longer a secret. This has led thousands to seek the Lord, and thousands to discuss matters of faith. The message of Christ has spread far!
At the same time the government is pressing an agenda of arabization and islamization for Algeria. In recent weeks this has intensified as governors ordered all shop owners to write their front signs solely in Arabic. New textbooks for Islamic education in schools will be widely used. At the same time, some speculate that the Quran may soon be used in Berber languages, even the call to prayer.
Further, the country’s obscure relationships with the Gulf nations raise fears that foreign influence could turn Algeria into an experimental bastion of islamization, as happened in Libya. Geopolitics are driving the MENA Region and Africa into a future that doesn’t yet have a name. Certainly islamization is one tool being used to destabilize nations. Will more of creation groan like Syria and Iraq?
Islam adamantly opposes Christianity. So our Christian brothers and sisters need courage and unswerving faith to face the persecution that lies ahead. This fight must begin on their knees. Meanwhile, the raging upheaval and effective grassroots protesting reveals how desperately the people long for a change!
CNA is There
No man-made political solution can ever truly satisfy these longing hearts. So we will keep showing them the way to ultimate peace: the Prince of Peace himself. Your prayers and support make this possible!