Friday, May 30, 2008

Too Many Conversions in Algeria

Transfigurations has a post on crackdowns on Christianity in Algeria with links to two articles. I found it interesting that the crackdowns appear to motivated by concerns over the growing number of converts to Christianity. The articles give very different estimates of the number of converts: 10,000 according to the Crosswalk article and 30,000 according to the article. However both articles attribute the growth in converts to the Christian broadcasting on satellite television and radio.

The article by Patrick Goodenough on says:
The vast majority of Algeria's 33 million people are Sunni Muslims, but the number of indigenous Christians is growing, thanks in part to the reach of Christian satellite television and radio.

Barnabas Fund estimates that there are around 30,000 mostly Protestant evangelical Christians in Algeria today, up from several hundred in the early 1980s.

Many of the Christians are in Algeria's north-eastern Kabylie region, home to ethnic minority Berbers. Most of the churches shut down in recent months are in Tizi Ouzou, a city in the Kabylie region.

Tizi Ouzou is the focus of much of the negative attention on Christians in recent months.

Algerian media have reported on a security services clampdown on campuses in the city and elsewhere, where they claim foreign students are proselytizing.

Christians are accused of adopting various means to lure Muslims to convert, including offers of money, gifts and "the use of African Christian girls to attract male students," according to reports in the national daily Echorouk newspaper.

The article from Crosswalk by Michael Donovan says:
Christian leaders believe that the increased persecution comes less because Islamists are growing in power than because Christians converts are increasing in number, thanks to Algerian church planters and Christian satellite TV.

“They are afraid about what God is doing in Algeria,” said Bouchama, the France-based Algerian televangelist.

Protestant church planters have been active in recent years, claiming to launch dozens of churches as they travel and find converts already present in many towns thanks to Christian radio and satellite TV. Conservative estimates put Algerians Christians at 10,000 strong, largely concentrated in Kabylie where the non-Arab populace has proven more receptive to Christianity.

Protestants first established a foothold in Kabylie in the 1980s and grew in number through the 1990s while the government was occupied with domestic terrorism. While terrorist attacks continue in Algeria, relative to the ’90s concerns have begun to subside just as evangelism efforts have doubled the Protestant presence in Arab areas outside of Kabylie.


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