Algeria forms part of what is known as the Maghreb – the western region of North Africa. Over the centuries it has been ruled by the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Spanish, the Ottoman Empire and latterly the French. After more than a century of rule by France, Algeria gained independence in 1962.(1)
Following independence, Algeria became a one-party socialist regime backed by the army for many years. A multi-party system was instituted in 1988, but when an Islamist party seemed like winning the 1992 elections, the army intervened, which in turn lead to a violent insurgency in which more than 100,000 people died.
Today it is a country with approximately 35 million citizens.(2)
Algeria is a republic, with the incumbent president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, having been in office since 1999. In 2008 the President amended the constitution to remove the two-term limit on the presidency, effectively allowing him to remain head of state for life.(3)
The state of emergency put in place in 1992 was lifted in February 2011 in response to the Arab uprisings taking place throughout the region.
Algeria has a fast growing economy due to oil/gas reserves and rapid nationalisation of related industries. However, most oil wealth doesn’t reach ordinary citizens and poverty and unemployment levels are high – 9.9% of the population is unemployed and 23% live below the poverty level.(1)
In addition to poverty and unemployment, endemic government corruption and poor standards in public services are also chronic sources of popular dissatisfaction.(3) According to UNESCO’s 2006 report on Literacy for Life, an average of 30.1% of Algeria’s population is illiterate. This percentage rises to almost 40% when looking at the figures for the female population only.
In 2011 Freedom House categorised Algeria’s press as “not free”. Satellite television is popular and there were 4.7 million internet users by June 2010.(4) Surveys undertaken for SAT-7 in 2007 indicate that 1.8 million different people had watched the channel in the previous 12 months.
Christianity has its origins in Algeria as early as the 2nd and 3rd centuries.(5) However, the Arab invasions from the 7th century onwards led to the Islamisation of Algeria and the marginalisation of Christians and Jews by the 12th century.
In modern-day Algeria 99% of the population is Sunni Muslim, 1% is Christian or Jewish.(2) Islam is the state religion, although the constitution provides for freedom of belief and practice of one’s religion. Since 2006 citizens have been permitted to change their religion on their ID card.
Conversion is not illegal under civil law, and apostasy is not a criminal offence. However, converts to Christianity from a Muslim background face harassment and discrimination. Attempts to proselytize Muslims are illegal and carry a punishment of one to three years in jail and a fine.
Ordinance 06-03 requires organised religious groups to register with the government, though historically permission has often been withheld. The Catholic Church has traditionally been the only officially recognised non-Muslim religious group in the country. Many other Christian groups, including the Anglican, Seventh-Day Adventist and other Protestant churches, tried to register but were unsuccessful.(6) In practice ordinance 06-03 enabled the government to shut any informal religious service taking place in private homes or in secluded outdoor settings.
A breakthrough came in July 2011 when the Protestant Church of Algeria (EPA) was finally granted government recognition and able to register its congregations throughout the country. Algerian Christians view this as a positive step and hope it will lead to the repealing of other laws that restrict Christian worship.
Many people amongst the Kabylie and other Berber people are coming to Christ. Some churches have seen incredible growth over the last 20 years. In fact, so many are coming to Christ in remote areas that the church is challenged with how to disciple these new believers.
- Give thanks for the registration of the Protestant Church and pray that local authorities will recognize this right to meet.
- Praise God for the many new believers. Pray they will be able to receive the discipleship they need.
- Pray for Christian satellite TV and radio broadcasts that have been the way by which most new believers have come to faith and which provide much needed Bible teaching and support.
- Pray for those who have been arrested or are being harassed for their faith. Ask God to give them the words to say and to be His witnesses in difficult circumstances.
- Ask God to protect Christians who meet in secret in their homes or in isolated locations.
 CIA World Factbook
 Operation World
 Internet World Stats
 30 Days of Prayer
 US State Dept Report on International Religious Freedom 2010