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01/23/2024 North Africa (International Christian Concern) – In the past several months, North Africa has seen a disturbing surge in persecution of its national Christians, with Mauritania, Algeria, and Libya at the forefront of escalating hostilities against Christians. This unsettling trend sheds light on the complex interplay of political, religious, and social factors that contribute to the challenges faced by Christian minorities in the region. 

  1. Mauritania: The Arrest and Release of 15 Christians

Mauritania is an Islamic Republic and while constitutionally does not outlaw Christianity, capital punishment for apostasy and blasphemy from Islam is outlined in the country’s legal code. Proselytizing or promoting any other religion other than Islam is also not allowed in Mauritania. In December 2023, a video went viral locally of a Mauritanian baptism, which led to a government crackdown with fifteen Christians detained and then later released after several weeks of national debate concerning the nation’s tiny, but growing, Christian minority.  

  1. Algeria: Church Closures and Crackdown on Pastors

Neighboring Algeria has not been exempted from the wave of persecution. Reports over the past few years show a series of church closures and a crackdown on pastors, signalling a concerning violation of religious freedoms. Both long-time registered protestant churches as well as house churches have been revealed, raided and Christians detain from practicing their faith in Algeria. The targeted nature of these actions raises questions about the motives behind such measures and  denial of crackdowns on Christians.  

  1. Libya: Government Searches for Christians Online and Through Connections

In Libya, a divided nation grappling with post-conflict challenges, local governments and militia’s intensified efforts to find and detain Christians have added to the growing concerns. The use of online surveillance and connections to track down individuals based on their religious affiliation underscores the extent to which religious persecution has infiltrated even the digital realm. The breakdown in law and order in the fractured nation puts any Libyan even suspected of interested in Christianity in grave danger of being detained, tortured, or even killed.  

What Is Behind this Disturbing Trend? 

The surge in persecution against Christians in North Africa can be attributed to a confluence of factors: 

  1. Political Factors in the Region

The New Year as brought a sharper divide between the Muslim majority world and the western world order. While a complex geopolitical factor that reaches far beyond North Africa, the ongoing conflict in Israel-Gaza is perceived by many in the Muslim majority world as a form of Western tyranny against Muslim lands. The United States is still seen by many around the world as a center of global Christian evangelicalism, and with the majority America’s evangelical protestants’ public voices firmly putting their political support behind Israel in the latest Middle East conflict, North African protestant groups (which represent the majority of indigenous Christians in North African countries) are experiencing great backlash and persecution through assumed association. Hence in the deeply Islamic nations of North Africa, the tiny numbers of national Christians, particularly protestant groups of whom most come from Muslim backgrounds, are sometimes unfairly perceived and suspected as siding with the “Christian west” and/or “Zionism.” 

  1. Perceived Growth of Christians in a Deeply Islamic Cultures

The perceived growth of Christian communities in predominantly Muslim nations in North Africa has heightened anxieties among certain segments of the population, especially extremist Islamic groups. In some cases, Christians are viewed as a threat to the prevailing religious and social order, leading to increased discrimination and persecution. 

In deeply Muslim-majority nations, there exists a longstanding hostility toward anyone who would convert to Christianity. This stems from a deeply ingrained sense of religious identity, where any deviation from the majority community faith is met with suspicion and unfortunately sometimes extreme cases of persecution. The challenge lies in fostering greater religious tolerance within these societies and showing that despite being Christians, they are still good citizens and are a central part of the fabric of the cultures that they represent.  

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