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Todd Daniels and Sandra Elliot
International Christian Concern
"After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands." (Revelation 7:9)
This image of a promised glory and everlasting peace seems all too far away when considering the geopolitical map of the world today. Jihadists behead Christians, brothers in Syria slaughter one another in cold blood, refugees desperately seek asylum and the West grapples with hate crime. We have become callous to these facts; they are brutalities that are now a norm in the present generation. The world, despite globalization and technological advancements, is backtracking in a primeval direction and doing all it can to drag the church along.
But hope is growing and flourishing despite these odds. The church is resisting the temptation of hatred and thriving in the darkest reaches of the world.
In Algeria, the Full Gospel Church of Tizi Ouzou is celebrating Christ in diversity and brotherly love. On May 8, 2015 over 200 sub-Saharan Christian students from 25 African countries came together for a time of exchange and worship. This is far more outlandish than it seems considering the challenges our brothers and sisters face in Algeria on a day-to-day basis for the sake of the Gospel.
Christianity in Algeria
With a population of 35.5 million people, approximately 0.28 percent is of Christian belief, according to Operation World circa 2010. While still small, Algeria has witnessed a huge growth of believers in the past two decades, now numbering nearly 100,000, many of them converts from Islam. These followers of Christ face legislation that restricts the public gathering of non-Muslims and makes proselytism a criminal offense. Open Door USA has reported that in the last decade it has become increasingly difficult to register churches in the region, therefore minimizing the possibility to worship lawfully.
To top all of the aforementioned difficulties, Algeria has become a central location for Islamic extremists swearing allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Hundreds of Algerians are believed to be fighting alongside of ISIS in Iraq and Syria. At home, at least two Algerian extremists groups have pledged loyalty to ISIS. On September 24th of this past year one Herve Goudel, 55, from France was executed in a gruesome video exemplifying this growing influence in the region.
Furthermore, diversity is a vast reality in Algeria considering migrant routes to Europe pass through the North African country. This has added new difficulties for the local church in view of the dangers posed to those passing through. Islamic extremists often target foreigners in the region for kidnapping. Libya, directly east of Algeria, has been a hot spot for the terrorist organization to carry out its brutal execution videos. Those killed are often foreign workers or immigrants on their way to Europe. According to The Times of London, as many as half a million people wait for passage to Europe in in North Africa, many in ISIS occupied territories.
Celebrating Christ in Diversity
The church in North Africa has respectively found itself in a position to host and protect those passing by following the command of the Lord:
"Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." Hebrews 13:2
This in itself is a heavy charge. But the body of Christ in Algeria, small as it may be, has taken this one step further. Not only will our brothers and sisters host those travelling through, but they have organized a setting to promote love and peace amongst the different migrant and indigenous groups.
This was the heart behind the May 2015 event, "Celebrating Christ in Diversity."
According to organizing committee member, Abe*, the event took close to two months of planning and included regular get-togethers amongst leaders in both the Catholic and Protestant communities.
"The purpose of the meeting was to create bonds of fraternity to promote fellowship," Abe explained in an interview.
Some of the students faithfully travelled up to 120 kilometers to attend the Christ-centered gathering. Mirvie*, an attendee and organizing member from the Democratic Republic of Congo, emphasized the aspect of unity fashioned by the event.
"I bless the Lord that the Church, the Body of Christ, is becoming increasingly aware that we are human first," explained Mirvie, "that Christ dying on the cross gave his life for all humanity; regardless of your origins, your tongue, your skin color, your education."
This is the earthly depiction of the worship that will be held one day in the throne room of God Almighty; our beloved image of a promised glory and everlasting peace. We should be encouraged by the faithfulness of these congregations in a closed and persecuted country. Let us welcome the possibility of experiencing the unity we will one day have in pure form. Though the world wants to destroy Love, the very essence of our Lord, we can stand secure and reach out to every tribe, nation and tongue.
*Names Changed for Security
For interviews, contact Todd Daniels, Regional Manager for the Middle East: RM-ME@persecution.org
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