Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Father John Flynn, LC

7/13/2008 (7 years ago)

Zenit News Agency (www.zenit.org)

In more recent years the spread of more intolerant strains of Islam has made life increasingly difficult for Christians.

Highlights

By Father John Flynn, LC

Zenit News Agency (www.zenit.org)

7/13/2008 (7 years ago)

Published in Middle East


ROME (Zenit) - The small Christian community in Algeria has undergone a rough period in the last few months. Two converts to Christianity were recently convicted of promoting their faith and given suspended sentences and fines, the Associated Press reported July 2.

Rachid Mohammed Seghir and Jammal Dahmani were sentenced for the crime of "distributing documents that aimed at weakening the faith of Muslims," said their lawyer Khelloudja Khalfoun.

The convicted are evangelical Protestants, prosecuted when extracts from the Bible and other Christian books were found in one of their cars in 2007.

According to information published by the U.S. government, 99% of Algerians are Muslims.

Earlier, on June 3, following the conviction of four Algerian Christians, a Reuters report said that the state-appointed Higher Islamic Council, which regulates religious practice, had accused Protestant evangelicals of trying to divide Algerians through a secret campaign of gaining converts.

According to the article, under a provision in a 2006 law that limits religious worship to government-approved buildings, more than a dozen churches have been closed in the past six months.

On May 28, Compass Direct News, an agency specializing in reporting on Christian persecution, reported on the case of Christian woman Habiba Kouider. She was arrested in her hometown of Tiaret on March 29.

Police found some Bibles and Christian books in Kouider's handbag and brought her before a state prosecutor. According to Compass Direct News the prosecutor offered to drop the charges against her if Kouider reconverted to Islam.

During the initial hearing Kouider was charged with having materials with the purpose of "shaking the faith" of a Muslim, an offense punishable with up to five years in prison.

Churches closed

The article also reported that in addition to a wave of church closures and court cases against Christians in Algeria, there has been a barrage of negative local press articles warning that Christian evangelism posed a threat to the unity of the country.

Compass Direct published an in-depth look at the situation in Algeria on May 27. The closure of many Protestant churches in preceding months were due to authorities deciding to enforce a February 2006 law that had not been put into practice beforehand.

Most church closures have occurred in the eastern region of Kabylie, a mountainous area dominated by ethnic minority Berbers.

"This is the most pressure Christians have faced in Algeria," said Farid Bouchama, an Algerian televangelist living in France. "Before it was discrimination from families or jobs, but this is the first organized pressure from the state."

The law has also caught up some Catholics as well, Compass Direct reported. Last December a Catholic priest was arrested for praying with Cameroon migrants on the Algerian border. This is a practice followed by Catholic priests for a decade, according to the article. The case is on appeal to the Algerian supreme court.

Catholics prohibited

As well, for the first time in 30 years, Catholic priests were prohibited from celebrating Christmas and Easter services for Italian expatriates working in Algeria's petroleum industry.

Priests must now also ask for government permission for what were previously routine pastoral activities, such as visiting prisoners in jail.

The problems of Catholics were highlighted in a Feb. 27 article published by the Spanish newspaper El Pais. The paper said that two months previously, retired Archbishop Henri Teissier of Algiers, in conjunction with the apostolic nuncio, organized a meeting with 15 ambassadors present in Algeria.

During the meeting the Catholic leader handed to the ambassadors a long list of problems and acts of persecution suffered by Christians since 2006. Among the difficulties revealed was an attempt by authorities in 2007 to force all foreign-born priests and nuns to leave Algeria, supposedly for their own safety, due to threats from Islamic extremists.

According to El Pais, there are about 110 priests and monks and 175 nuns in Algeria. The newspaper said that Archbishop Teissier protested the government action and was able to achieve a change in the decree that threatened to expel the clergy and religious.

Copts under pressure

Egypt is another country where Christians are under threat. According to a July 7 article published by the Washington Post a combination of pressure from Islam and episodes of sectarian violence is forcing the Coptic Christian minority to turn inward for protection.

The estimated 6-8 million Copts, who live with the more than 70 million Muslims in Egypt, have suffered repeated attacks in past months.

In past decades, the Washington Post commented, Muslims and Christians lived together in an atmosphere of religious tolerance and members of both religious mixed freely with each other.

In more recent years the spread of more intolerant strains of Islam has made life increasingly difficult for Christians.

The article also noted that many Copts think government policy considers them as second-class citizens. They require, for example, presidential approval in order to be able to build a church.

One recent attack, reported by the Italian Catholic newspaper Avvenire on June 19, was the kidnapping of 17-year-old Maria Gerges Labib, who was taken forcibly as she left school in the locality of Abu Al Matamer. The Copt community suspects she was kidnapped with the intention of forcing her to convert to Islam.

Adding to the grievance was the arrest of 17 Copts who were among a group protesting the kidnapping outside the local police station. The peaceful demonstration was held to protest the lack of police action on the kidnapping.

The Avvenire article also mentioned a recent incendiary attack carried out against the Copt monastery of Abu Fana, which was assaulted by a crowd of Muslims protesting what they said was the illegal construction of a wall around the monastery.

There have been some positive developments in Egypt said Paul Marshall, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom, in an article published in the March 3 edition of the Weekly Standard magazine.

Converts

Marshall explained that some recent verdicts by Egypt's Court of Administrative Justice granting relief to religious minorities. In one of these, on Feb. 9, it ruled that 12 Christians who had previously converted to Islam may convert back and have their identity documents changed to reflect this.

It was a mixed victory, however, Marshall added. The court also stipulated that the Christians must have the word "ex-Muslim" on their documents. "This essentially marks them as apostates and exposes them to persecution and attack," said Marshall.

Marshall also reported on another decree by the court, in which it ruled that Mohammed Hegazy, who was born a Muslim, could not have his conversion to Christianity recognized. The reason given by the tribunal was that "monotheistic religions were sent by God in chronological order" and therefore one cannot convert to "an older religion."

The issue of converts is, in fact, a problem in a number of Muslim countries. In Somalia Daud Hassan Ali was shot because he had converted from Islam to Christianity, the BBC reported April 15.

His wife, Margaret Ali, made the claim he was killed for having converted after the body of Daud Hassan Ali was found dead at the school his charity had built in Beledweyne.

Rehana Ahmed, from Birmingham, and two Kenyan teachers were also killed. Ali had left Somalia in 1967 and became a Christian after meeting missionaries. After settling in Britain he had gone back to Somalia after retiring so he could establish a school to help educate the many children without education in the country.

The Hakab Private English School was completed just a month before the attack. The blood of martyrs continues to be shed in many countries today.



Comments


More Middle East

ISIS DOOMSDAY PLAN: Islamic State plans to invade India to draw United States into conflict Watch

Image of The document says that reparations for an attack on India are already underway, in  which ISIS leaders hope concludes with a war with the U.S.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A nefarious plot to draw the United States into armed conflict with Islamic State has been revealed in a top-secret document. In an attempt to bring about "the end of the world," the document states that ISIS will invade India in a bid to draw the U.S. into an all-out ... continue reading


Taliban leader, 'One-Eye' Mullah Omar confirmed dead Watch

Image of Mullah Mohammad Omar is confirmed to be dead according to the Afghan government.

By Linky C. (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Afghan government confirmed Taliban leader "One-Eye" Mullah Mohammad Omar has been dead for more than two years. The militant leader died "under mysterious circumstances" in a hospital in Karachi City in Pakistan in April 2013, according to Abdul Hassib Seddiqi, a ... continue reading


Australian reality TV stars 'shot at' by ISIS in Syria Watch

Image of

By Nikky Andres (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Australian public broadcaster, SBS defended the reality show where participants were shot at by ISIS militants in Syria. The incident was said to be a part of a trip retracing refugees' journeys and that those involved had wide security provisions. MUNTINLUPA, ... continue reading


'End of the world' ISIS document reveals terrorist group's world domination plan Watch

Image of

By Nikky Andres (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A suspected ISIS recruitment document discovered in Pakistan's anarchic tribal lands revealed that the religious extremist group has ostentatious ambitions of building a new terrorist army in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in addition to triggering a war in India to provoke ... continue reading


STARVATION: One in two families in Yemen has no idea where their next meal is coming from Watch

Image of The problem is so severe, one in two of Yemen's people, or nearly 13 million struggle to find bread for their mouths.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

One of the greatest casualties of war is displaced civilian populations left without the necessities of life. In Yemen, nearly 4,000 people have been killed with more than 1.2 million people displaced. On ongoing battle between Houthi rebels and forces loyal to exiled ... continue reading


Iran's Assets Uncovered: Iran cash windfall from Iran nuclear deal estimated at $150 billion Watch

Image of Iran celebrates nuclear deal.

By Linky C. (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A total of $150 billion is estimated to be the amount Iran will receive from the Iran deal. This amount will provide the country more than the $124.3 billion the U.S. has given to Israel in total financial aid since 1948. MUNTINLUPA CITY, PHILIPPINES (Catholic Online) ... continue reading


Refugee boy beaten for selling tissues at Turkish restaurant galvanizes nation Watch

Image of Ahmet's story is one of millions of Syrians. Forced to flee to Turkey because of his homeland's civil war, his family lives in a two-bedroom apartment without electricity and running water.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

It was a shocking incident that drew attention to the plight of millions of refugees living in host countries. Thirteen-year-old Ahmet Hamdo, whose large Syrian family fled the war-torn town of Aleppo, was beaten mercilessly by a Turkish restaurant owner for selling ... continue reading


ISIS leader sentences a woman to be beheaded as wedding present to cruel female Sharia judge Watch

Image of [Photo By: Jamie Wiseman/ Mail Online]

By Nikky Andres (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi personally sanctioned a women to be beheaded, as a wedding present to a brutal female "judge" in the terror group's feared religious police. The cruel woman asked to slaughter an unbelieving "infidel" in return for taking a new husband after the ... continue reading


Australian man anxious to fight against Islamic State - is detained and arrested Watch

Image of Jamie Reece Williams was in court in Melbourne after counter-terrorism officers charged him with preparing to enter a foreign country with the intention of engaging in hostile activities.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Australian authorities have clamped down a misguided attempt at heroism. Jamie Reece Williams, from suburban Melbourne was arrested after he allegedly try to fly to northern Iraq to join Kurdish forces battling Islamic State. It remains illegal for any Australian to ... continue reading


YOU WILL NOT TAKE MY HEAD! - Notorious ISIS executioner 'Jihadi John' now on the run from his former bosses Watch

Image of There are rumors that Jihadi John had been moved by ISIS to Libya, where he supposedly attended a terror training camp with Sousse gunman Seifeddine Rezgui.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

He was at one time the most visible and dreaded figure in the Islamic State terror group . now, "Jihadi John" has fled for his life, afraid that his ISIS overlords were planning to kill him with as much leniency mercy as he did captive journalists. LOS ANGELES, ... continue reading


All Middle East News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15
2 And the whole community of Israelites began ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 78:3-4, 23-24, 25, 54
3 What we have heard and know, what our ancestors ... Read More

Gospel, John 6:24-35
24 When the people saw that neither Jesus nor his ... Read More

Reading 2, Ephesians 4:17, 20-24
17 So this I say to you and attest to you in the ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for August 2nd, 2015 Image

St. Eusebius of Vercelli
August 2: Christians who breathed a sigh of relief when Constantine ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter