May our prayers and our advocacy for our suffering brothers and sisters in Algeria be as persistent as those of the Luke 18 widow.
This lively worship is from the Full Gospel Church in Tizi Ouzou in Algeria. The mood is joyful and the people are rejoicing. It is hard to believe this church is in a majority-Muslim country in north Africa where church leaders need permission from the Algerian government to meet.
In the 1970s, there were just a handful of known evangelical believers in Algeria. Today, there are tens of thousands gathered in dozens of churches.
Around 50 churches form the Protestant Church of Algeria, or Eglise Protestante d’Algérie (EPA), a national alliance of churches that became a member of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA).
The president of the EPA, Salaheddine Chalah, is also pastor of the Full Gospel Church in Tizi Ouzou, the largest church in Algeria, bringing together 1,200 worshipers during weekly services.
Sadly, on 15 October 2019, the worshipers went silent.
They were replaced with police officers who forced church members out of the building and sealed the church. The church has remained closed ever since.
Between November 2017 and April 2022, Algerian authorities have closed down 16 churches. At least 10 additional churches have been ordered to close or have legal proceedings against them for their closure. In addition, at least 12 Christians have faced prosecution in the last 18 months.
The Algerian government carried out church closures and the prosecution of Christians, alleging violation of a 2006 ordinance governing the worship of non-Muslims.
This ordinance stipulates that non-Muslim worship can only be conducted in a building approved for that purpose by the National Commission for Non-Muslim Religious Groups. However, it has not issued a single licence since 2006.
We acknowledge that the stories of persecution are but a fraction of God’s story in those regions and that the church is growing even when faced with persecution. Our advocacy is not the source of salvation. Jesus is.
We also acknowledge that the church leaders in Algeria have agency and a margin of manœuvre. Our relationship with them, and our communication with the outside world, should not portray them as helpless victims or portray our efforts as saving the day.
Global advocacy is often an extension of national advocacy, and our global WEA voice is an echo of the local church voice.
May our prayers and our advocacy for our suffering brothers and sisters be as persistent as those of the Luke 18 widow.
Wissam Al-saliby, Advocacy Officer of the World Evangelical Alliance in Geneva (Switzerland).
This article was first published by the UK Evangelical Alliance and re-published with permission.