Though 2019 began as a year of new opportunity for Algerian believers, it now draws to a disappointing end. William Stark, regional manager of International Christian Concern (ICC), recently told Gatestone Institute that authorities have closed 12 churches in Algeria since the beginning of 2019.
Yet hope remains. Members of the Full Gospel Church of Tizi Ouzou published a series of posts on social media showing their new “outdoor services.” They said church doors may be closed and locked, but it’s not stopping believers from worshipping on the staircase.
SAT-7 is a satellite TV ministry to the Middle East and North Africa. Its U.S. President, Rex Rogers, recently met with Algerian believers. “A couple of those Algerians were actually in Egypt when I was there two weeks ago and gave a report on this persecution,” Rogers says.
“Obviously, they’re not happy with their church close, but, they were able to share their faith with police, they were able to experience God’s protection and goodness throughout this.”
Persecution watchdog Open Doors USA ranks Algeria at #22 on its World Watch List, a compilation of nations where Christian persecution is most severe. In October, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) called upon Algeria’s government to stop its systematic persecution of Christians.
Yet, despite ongoing oppression, believers continue to worship God and make His name known. Pastor Salah Challah, the President of the Protestant Church of Algeria (EPA) and senior pastor of the Full Gospel congregation, said authorities “can seal our churches but not our hearts.” He continues to lead prayers on the staircase outside the locked church.
“Algeria is one of those places where the Christian Church has been growing dramatically and all of s sudden there’s this pushback, but God uses that to draw people to himself,” Rogers says.
“That’s why I always say that the Church in the Middle East is amazing for, its resilience, the strength of their faith.”
Rita El-Mounayer, International CEO of SAT-7, says in this blog post on SAT-7 USA’s website:
“Since 2012, SAT-7 has been broadcasting worship services from the Full Gospel Church of Tizi Ouzou on our Arabic channel. The enthusiastic response we receive from viewers shows how much these are valued by our Algerian viewers.
“We pray that the doors of these Algerian churches will soon be unlocked and that our fellow Christians there will have the freedom to worship which they enjoy so much.”
With their normal programming interrupted by church closures, SAT-7 staff are looking for creative ways to encourage and support Algeria’s believers. Ask the Lord to bless SAT-7’s efforts. Remember this situation in your prayers, Rogers requests.
“They just need to know that the Church in America cares. We’re aware. We’re praying. As appropriate, we may give to various agencies that can help them.”
You can make a difference by interceding in prayer for the reopening of these churches, he concluded.