Friday, November 25, 2011

One Bible you can have, Two Bibles you cannot

Individual Christians have long suffered for their faith in Algeria, but not until 2006, when Algeria enacted a new religion law, did the government have the legal means to restrict the church.

"If they find you with Christian materials, they will arrest you immediately," Gerard* says. "One Bible, you can have. Two Bibles, you cannot have because the second one is clearly not yours. They say you are just trying to give it to someone else."

Gerard* was riding a bus that was stopped by police at a checkpoint. A policeman who searched Gerard's bag found his Bible-study book and began to curse him. "And I just told him, 'Ok, that is enough. This is my faith. This is what I believe.' He didn't beat me, but he spat on me," Gerard says. Gerard's faith has sustained him through multiple beatings for being a Christian, and he now sees this treatment as normal.

As the bus left the checkpoint and drove on, the other passengers began to verbally abuse Gerard. "All of them started to say bad things," he says, "and I hoped that long distance would finish soon. "The persecution is there, but the church is there no matter what happens."

Not a single church has been granted registration since the 2006 law's enactment, and in 2008, the government ordered the closure of 26 churches in Algeria's Kabyle region, where the majority of Christians live. In May 2011, authorities ordered seven more churches in Bejaia province to close for failure to comply with registration regulations.

Charred items pulled from burned
Tafat Church building in Tizi Ouzou.
 Instead of closing, however, the seven churches decided to continue meeting to test the government's resolve. "Many people are praying, and that is why the churches keep the doors open," says one Algerian Christian. In 2010, rather than wait on the government to close down a church, extremists chose to burn down the Tafat Church in Tizi Ouzou, also in the Kabyle region.

In this environment, many churches have begun to meet in the countryside, while others meet in homes where the walls have been removed to make room for worshipers.

(excerpted from Voice of the Martyrs newsletter, November 2011)

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