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On the Day of Pentecost Peter preached to many north African Jews, but it is not known if there were any from modern day Algeria. What we do know is that Phillip preached the gospel not far away in Carthage to the Berber Peoples, the original north Africans before the Arab conquests. In fact Simone of Cyrene, the man who carried the cross of Christ was a Berber!
In the 1st Century AD the land of Algeria was violently incorporated into the Roman Empire, but at the same time it was embracing the new faith of Christianity. Soon North Africa would become a stronghold of Christianity and the religion of protest and theological strength. St Augustine of Hippo was actually an Algerian Berber! However, between 300-600AD the church there would succumb to small mindedness, pagan infiltration and religious trivia. They concentrated on ornate buildings, were inward-looking and were poorly taught in the Scriptures.
With the coming of the Arab Empire in the 8th Century, a new and intolerant theology and culture gradually took root, one hostile to the Christian faith. Islam tolerated Christianity for several centuries until the Berbers were finally forced at the point of the sword to convert to Islam. There was no known Christianity in Algeria since 1114 AD, but the Berbers never lost their language, alphabet, identity or the memory that they were forced into Islam. Berber groups were only ever nominally Muslim. Their observances of Islamic law are generally lax.
Things began to change in 1881 when Protestant missionaries took up the task of reaching out to the Algerian people. Church growth was slow until Bible correspondence courses were set up in the 1960’s. After independence from France (and a million deaths later) the church continued to grow but slowly. Then the civil war erupted, pitting the secular government and military against Islamists. Hundreds of thousands more died. That’s when the church began to grow rapidly.
The attempted Islamisation of the country backfired, with tens of thousands of Berbers returning to the faith of their ancient forebears. Some now estimate the number of believers among the 8 million Berbers is now over 100,000 and growing strongly at over 10% a year. There are believers in nearly every community. The majority of Algerians are Arab Muslims and the Berber believers are starting to reach out to them.
The Arab dominated government is very upset with this new and “dangerous” religious movement and is beginning to crack down on the many open churches scattering the Berber settlements in the Atlas Mountains. Persecution is growing and so is the church. Yet there is curiosity among the Arabs. Youssef Qurahmane, a leading pastor who was arrested a few years ago remembers being given 45 minutes to share the gospel with his fascinated Arab captors at a local police station.
The presidential election next year could see an Islamist government take over from the secularists. In the lead up the Secularists are flexing their Muslim credentials by picking on the Christians. 2019 could see a spiritual darkness come over the country of Algeria.
3. Evangelism Highlights
Church leaders say The Church started out very small. In the beginning we saw very little growth, but then the growth became like a rolling snowball, growing bigger and bigger. Now, there are zeros at end of the growth numbers! Because of the ban on missionaries, the church is completely indigenous and has a heart to reach out beyond its Berber strongholds. Many churches now number up to 1,000 or more, have their own buildings, and are now stockpiling Berber language Bibles for the days of persecution ahead. Christian media via SAT-7 and the internet are a huge source of teaching for new believers and seekers alike. Christian evangelists are now sharing their lives right into the living room of hundreds of thousands of secret listeners. This is the first time Muslims are hearing the Christian point of view in a mature and reasoned way.
Praise God for the miracle of the new and rapidly growing church in Algeria.
Pray for believers to be strong in the face of future opposition.
Pray for continued growth, and for that growth to spread into the Arab communities.
Pray for continued dreams and visions for those seeking the truth.
Pray for church leaders to be faithful to their calling.
Pray that Berber Christians can reach fellow Berbers in neighbouring countries.
Pray for the spiritual snowball to turn into an avalanche!
Pray for Christian media and internet to reach into many, many more homes.
Pray for the Algerian Church goal of sending 1,000 missionaries by 2025.
Next week: Albania