Algerian Active Christians Face Fresh Crackdown
The Algerian government is stepping up its effort to clamp down on Christians in the country following conversion of many Muslims to Christianity.
By Eric Leijenaar
Tuesday, 05 February 2008 Algeria (BosNewsLife)- Algerian authorities have launched a crackdown on Christians suspected of involvement in evangelism, as part of attempts to enforce a new strict religious law, a well-informed rights group said Tuesday, February 5.
Netherlands-based Open Doors, which has close contacts with Christians reportedly persecuted for their faith, told BosNewsLife that active believers are especially under pressure in Kabylia, a cultural region in the north of Algeria , where Christians have apparently been arrested and dismissed from their workplace.
In one of the latest incidents, the director of a Christian school in Kabylia region was allegedly fired by Algeria ‘s Ministry of Education for his alleged involvement in evangelism. Open Doors researchers quoted the national radio broadcaster as saying that the director “used the school to propagate Christianity, in violation of the study plan of the school.”
Earlier in Kabylia, in the town of Tizi Ouzo , five Christians were sentenced for preaching Christianity last year, with some of them receiving one year imprisonment, BosNewsLife reported earlier, citing Algerian media in September.
Last year Algeria s parliament adopted a law that provides tough prison sentence for those “trying to call on a Muslim to embrace another religion.” Commentators said at the time that the law in the North African nation was in response to Christian evangelists and missionary workers who have preached in several parts of the country.
The law would be especially applied to “anyone urging or forcing or tempting, to convert a Muslim to another religion.” Christian publishers have been targeted as the same penalties apply to every “person, manufacturer, store or circulate publications or audio-visual [media]” or other communication tools “aiming at destabilizing attachment to Islam.”
The law also bans practicing any religion “except Islam” outside “buildings allocated for that” by prior licensing. The Ministry of Religious Affairs has suggested that the aim of the law is to “ban religious activity” and what it called “secret religious campaigns.” However Open Doors said the legislation violates Algeria ‘s own constitution, which includes guarantees related to “freedom of conscious and opinion as well as freedom of assembly.”
Although Algeria under President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has won some praise from the West for backing the US-led “war on terror,” and restoring security, the reported crackdown on Christians have added to concerns among rights campaigners about alleged abuses by security forces.
He had promised, on first taking office in 1999, to restore national harmony and to end years of bloodshed, releasing thousands of Muslim militants.
More than a million Algerians were killed in the fight for independence from France in 1962, and analysts say the country only recently emerged from a bloody internal conflict that followed scrapped elections in 1992. (With BosNewsLife Research and reports from Algeria ).