Algeria (MNN) — The Church is thriving in Algeria, but it’s thriving underground. Algeria’s government recognizes an official organization called the Association of the Protestant Church of Algeria (APCA), but getting certified as part of that organization is next to impossible. And for churches that don’t register? According to Riadh Jaballah of Voice of the Martyrs Canada, they become targets.

To date, Jaballah’s contacts have counted 46 closed churches without any newly opened ones. Churches that are not a part of the APCA are not formally allowed to open, and any attempt to do so would be met with automatic government shutdowns.

This essentially shuts down any opportunity for smaller churches to grow or remote plants to start. The churches that do fall under the APCA umbrella are so big – some reaching 2,000 congregants – that there is little space for personal connections or discipleship.

The size of these legal churches confuses local believers, Jaballah says. How can churches have the negative social impact that the Algerian government claims they have when these registered churches have so many members already? “The government searches for any excuse to persecute them and close the churches,” he says.

Plus, the rules are applied inconsistently. Some Catholic churches or churches that promise not to engage in vandalism, for example, don’t seem to require government oversight. This can potentially create division within the Algerian Church as a whole and drives leadership into unnecessary conflict.

“Our brothers [are] still fighting for their faith,” Jaballah says. “They’re [still] worshipping God.”

Christians in Algeria are trying to turn crisis into opportunity. Amazingly, Jaballah says, “We are happy that the church buildings are closed because God opened many opportunities for the underground Church.”

Christians are careful to exercise caution. “If more than 10 or 15 people [meet], they suspect; why are you together?” Jaballah says. “If the number is more than that, they suspect them, and right away they can stop them.” Instead, Christians enter churches one by one so they don’t draw too much attention.

Jaballah draws comparisons to the first-century Church, which met in houses and found creative ways to worship. Like the early Church, Algerian believers are hungry for sound theology and meaningful discipleship.

“We keep praying for our brothers and sisters,” Jaballah says. “We need to pray for unity among the believers. Secondly, I want to pray for wisdom. It’s not about us. It’s about him at the end of the day, for all of us when we serve the ministry.”

Pray for humility, courage, and faith. Learn more about how you can pray with Voice of the Martyrs Canada.


Header photo courtesy of Unsplash.