ALGERIA NEEDS PEACE FOR OPENNESS.
World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission (WEA RLC)
Special to ASSIST News Service
AUSTRALIA (ANS) – Algeria is potentially a most strategic North African nation. For decades it has been wracked by war, political instability and Islamic terrorism. Through the 1980s escalating unemployment and poverty led to widespread anger against the military-backed totalitarian regime. Consequently, Islamic groups that promised rescue by means of an Islamic state won widespread popular support.
In January 1992, after the first round of parliamentary elections made it clear the fundamentalist Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) was positioned to win, the Assembly was dissolved and the Army took control. Clashes erupted between the FIS and the security forces and a state of emergency was declared. The FIS was ordered to disband and all 411 FIS-controlled local and regional authorities were dissolved. The Islamic Salvation Army (AIS, the FIS’ militant wing) and the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) retaliated with horrific massacres of civilians, especially during Ramadan. It is estimated 150,000 people have died in the conflict.
In 1999 Abdelaziz Bouteflika, eventually the only candidate, was elected as president. After long and largely secret negotiations with the AIS, Boutiflika launched a ‘civil reconciliation’ initiative. The program was endorsed overwhelmingly in a referendum. Subsequently more than 5000 AIS militants surrendered their weapons in exchange for amnesty. Largely because his peace initiative was so effective, Boutiflika was re-elected in April 2004 in a landslide poll, deemed free and fair by international monitors. However, it is estimated some 1000 jihadists are still at large. On 29 September 2005, Boutiflika held another referendum on granting amnesty to Islamists who surrender and lay down their weapons. Those guilty of rapes, massacres and bombings are not eligible for amnesty. Whilst the al Qaeda-linked Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) officially rejected the offer, some 300 Algerian Salafite militants have already indicated via their families that they wish to surrender and accept the government’s proposed amnesty (AKI 3 October).
The amnesty is highly controversial and generally opposed by human rights groups who say it grants impunity to terrorists and circumvents justice. However, of the 80 percent of Algeria ‘s eligible electors who voted in the referendum, 97 percent supported the amnesty. This amnesty could greatly weaken the jihadist movement in Algeria and further advance peace. But for genuine long-lasting peace, it needs to be part of a comprehensive restorative justice program, as distinct from punitive or retributive justice. That requires everybody’s co-operation and must include truth, repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation. So, to honour this forgiveness offered sacrificially by the people, the government must follow up the amnesty with a truth commission that involves jihadists and security forces, and a comprehensive national reconciliation program. Without these, any peace will only be temporary as the sores will simply fester.
Algeria is so important because the decade of horrific Islamic terror has led actually to a widespread revulsion and rejection of hard-line, political and militant Islam. On top of this, nationalist movements have arisen with indigenous non-Arabs like the Berbers actively resisting Arabisation. Berbers who are some 40 percent of the population are searching for and reviving their ethnic identity. This involves exploring their pre-Arab/Islamic heritage and culture. Today there is a growing spiritual openness amongst these peoples. The Bible Society has recently been permitted to re-open in Algeria . President Boutiflika is keen to revise family law and women’s rights. He also wants to security. So we pray for good governance and peace to open the door and eventually give Algerians religious liberty.
PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR:
- Courage, perseverance and grace for the very small but growing Christian Church in Algeria , as persecution of Muslim converts to Christianity (especially Arabs) can be intense.
- God to protect the Church as individuals and as a Body, comfort her, provide her material and spiritual needs, and bestow boldness from the Holy Spirit.
- God to use those in authority in Algeria as his instrument for reform and true peace-making; may there be truth, repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation, for the sake of the future, the people, the Church, and the gospel in the nation. (1 Tim 2:1-4)
‘Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped… to open doors before him that gates may not be closed…’ See Isaiah 45:1-8
- God to use Christian radio and satellite programs, local Christian witness and supernatural means to speak into Muslim hearts as they reflect on spiritual matters during Ramadan; may their eyes be opened to see Jesus Christ the Redeemer, the Prince of Peace.
- Religious liberty to become a reality in Algeria , and for righteousness and praise to spread across the nation. (Isaiah 61:11)