Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Father John Flynn, LC

7/13/2008 (6 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 (6 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

HORRIFIC video shows Islamic State stoning Yazidi woman - by group of men, including HER father Watch

Image of In a related incident, a man was executed in Idlib province in an area controlled by Islamist groups including the Nusra Front, al Qaeda's official affiliate in Syria.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A sickening video of a young woman being stoned to death by a group of men, which includes her own father, has been released by Islamic State. The video is believed to have been filmed in the city of Hama. The clip shows a bearded cleric ranting at the woman in ... continue reading


Yazidi woman 'I've been raped 30 times and it's not even lunchtime!' Watch

Image of A Yazidi woman over the telephone that she had been raped so frequently that she could no longer use the toilet. She says that her despair is so great she will commit suicide - even if she is freed.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A young Yazidi woman held captive by the Islamic State for repeated sexual abuse says that she was raped 30 times in just a few hours. Kept prisoner, she now begs the West to bomb the brothel where she is being held. It's believed that she's being kept prisoner ... continue reading


Islamic State has infiltrated INSIDE of Turkey with attempt to kidnap Syrian leader Watch

Image of Militants have recently shot and wounded a senior Syrian rebel commander within the nation. The incident has raised questions of Ankara's commitment to defeating the terror group.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

While Islamic State fighters batter the Syrian city of Kobani near the border with Turkey, ISIS agents are apparently now currently operating within the nation of Turkey. Militants have recently shot and wounded a senior Syrian rebel commander within the ... continue reading


Jack 'the acid' Ripper: Suspects arrested in connection with acid attacks against women in Iran Watch

Image of Though the attacks have instilled fear in some women in the city, many continue to live their lives without apologies.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Iranian authorities have arrested a number of people suspected of throwing acid at women. Its' believed that the women were wearing their traditional Islamic head covering improperly. The public had grown increasingly angry over the series of attacks in the ... continue reading


Sectarian violence spreads in Yemen, where Shi'ite militia square off against al-Qaeda Watch

Image of A member of the Shi'ite military Houthi organization.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A Yemeni city was taken by al Qaeda fighters, and 33 people were killed by a suicide bombing and gun fighting during the group's challenge to the Yemeni government. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - This is just the latest bout of violence that has erupted in ... continue reading


Al Qaeda launches 'magazine war' with Islamic State in effort to attract new recruits Watch

Image of Resurgence, the new magazine for Al Qaeda.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Al Qaeda is attempting to make a comeback in the public eye following the stunning rise of the competing Islamic State. In an online publication, aimed at a global audience, the terror group is encouraging attacks at economic infrastructure. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic ... continue reading


Pope Francis - Petitions UN, Muslims and Christians to address 'ongoing genocide' in Iraq Watch

Image of An Iraqi man flees with children on a donkey amid hundreds of other refugees. Christians and other ethnic minorities have been driven from their ancient homelands and into camps.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis has once again spoken out about the atrocities being committed in the Middle East by the Islamic State, labeling them "terrorism of previously unimaginable proportions." LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Pope Francis lamented, "it seems that the ... continue reading


Islamic State takes mounting death count in Syria Watch

Image of Both Kurdish and Iraqi forces have been battling ISIS on the ground.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Islamic State has taken heavy casualties over the past several days. At least 70 fighters for the terror group have been dropped off over the past several days at a hospital in the Syrian town of Tal Abyad. The town is on the Turkey-Syrian border about 50 miles ... continue reading


Christians, Yazidis and Turkmen face genocide in Iraq Watch

Image of At least half a million people have been forced to flee their villages in Ninewa province, home to minority communities for thousands of years, according to the report, From Crisis to Catastrophe: the situation of minorities in Iraq.

By Kieran Guilbert, Thomson Reuters Foundation

More than 12,000 civilians have been killed in Iraq so far this year, mainly by Islamic State (IS), and minorities facing ethnic cleansing are the principal victims, according to a report published on Thursday. LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Minority Rights ... continue reading


Deadly Sarin bombs now in hands of Islamic State Watch

Image of Officials warned that they had witnessed equipment there being looted on CCTV whereupon the militants shut the surveillance cameras down.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

An even more alarming fact has risen to the fore in the war in the Middle East, ISIS controls a vast compound in Iraq containing 2,500 rusting chemical weapons rockets, according to the Iraqi government. While the site was bombed by the U.S. during the 1991 ... 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, Ephesians 3:14-21
14 This, then, is what I pray, kneeling before the ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 33:1-2, 4-5, 11-12, 18-19
1 Shout for joy, you upright; praise comes well from ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 12:49-53
49 'I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 23rd, 2014 Image

St. John of Capistrano
October 23: St. John was born at Capistrano, Italy in 1385, the son of a ... 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