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[vc_row][vc_column][vc_custom_heading text=”” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_custom_heading text=”By Matias Perttula” font_container=”tag:h6|text_align:left” use_theme_fonts=”yes” css=”.vc_custom_1597859159505{margin-bottom: 22px !important;}”][vc_single_image image=”117901″ img_size=”full” add_caption=”yes” alignment=”center”][vc_column_text]09/04/2020 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – Last year, an Algerian church leader, Pastor Challah, released an extraordinarily brave video. In it, he called on the international body of Christ to speak up for Christians in Algeria.

The reason for Pastor Challah’s bold move is this: Algeria’s government has launched a major campaign against Christian worship by abruptly closing churches across the nation.

Eighteen churches in Pastor Challah’s net­work were forcibly closed in the two years prior to his appeal. Six of them were closed in the two months leading up to the video’s release. The Algerian Minister of the Interior claimed that these churches were in violation of zoning codes, but it was nothing more than a veiled attack on the Christian community of Algeria.

As officials shut down the churches, many congregants engaged in sit-in protests. Incredibly, they were met with violence and abuse.

As the situation on the ground escalated, ICC’s advocacy team began meeting with congressmen, State Department officials, and other Washington D.C. leaders, asking them to put pressure on the Algerian government to address this wave of closures.

ICC helped organize two letters from Congress, signed by several members of the House of Representatives. The letters were addressed to the government of Algeria, call­ing on them to stop the closure of church­es and reopen those that had already been closed. Other US officials sent letters as well, demanding that Algeria put a stop to the ram­pant persecution. This coordinated pressure from ICC and others was effective. Church closures ground to a halt.

But the churches that were already shut down remain closed. ICC continues to lead the outcry on this issue, bringing together a coalition of partner organizations to defend the Algerian Church. We are conducting a coordinated advocacy campaign on their behalf on Capitol Hill.

As part of these efforts, ICC has hosted several events for policymakers and leaders, presenting the situation on the ground and urging them to take action on the issue.

ICC also worked closely with members of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) to inform them of the situation and to hand over a microphone to those on the ground in Algeria. Afterwards, USCIRF spoke out against the persecution facing the Algerian Church and recommended that the State Department put Algeria on its Special Watch List of particularly severe reli­gious freedom violators.

USCIRF’s public condemnation of Algeria was a PR disaster for Algeria and helped to make religious freedom a cornerstone topic of conversation with the government of Algeria. While the situation in Algeria remains diffi­cult, the US government is aware of the situ­ation and continues to bring it up in bilateral meetings with Algeria. We have hope that eventually these churches will be gathering together once more.

Furthermore, good news underlies the attacks on the Algerian Church.

These attacks result from massive Church growth in Algeria over the last 40 years.

In 2008, there were approximately 10,000 Christians in Algeria. The Joshua Project, which tracks Church growth, estimates that there are now at least 600,000 professing Christians in Algeria. While the Algerian government can try its best to push back against the will of God, His plans will not be thwarted.

ICC will continue to defend its broth­ers and sisters and push back the Algerian government through public shaming and the back-channels of government. Please keep our efforts in your prayers!

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