Ali was a jihadi. He had a long beard, wore white clothing and trained to fight alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan. As a devout Muslim, he exhorted his mother and two sisters to be more religious, forbidding them to watch TV. 

One of Ali’s brothers, however, had become a Christian. “I thought he had left the true religion, and according to Islamic law he deserves to be dead,” Ali said. “I would show him the Quran verses and tell him, ‘Look, you have to believe. You have to believe back to Islam.’ Every time we would start talking about this, he would tell me that God loves me and would talk about God’s love.”

Ali belonged to an Islamist cell group that distributed tracts about fasting, Islamic dress and joining the jihad. But in 1992, following a crackdown on Islamists, he suddenly found himself at the top of the Algerian government’s most-wanted list. His options were to stay inside all the time or venture out and risk arrest. 

One day, frustrated with his self-imposed house arrest, Ali went for a bus ride and got off at a random stop. A young woman at the bus stop caught his eye, so he asked her if he could talk to her. “No,” she said bluntly, “don’t talk to me. I am a Christian.” 

Ali was surprised, not least because it was a risky thing for her to admit. Still, he was attracted to her, so he tried another approach. “My brother is a Christian,” he told her. “Really?” she asked. The girl then told him that she had become a believer by listening to Christian radio stations and writing down the Bible verses she heard. She had never even met a Christian. 

As the girl became more comfortable talking with Ali, she boldly asked him if he could get her a Bible from his brother. Eager to please, Ali did get her a Bible, and in the process he became curious about what it had to say. He read the Bible, compared its teaching with the Quran and began to ask questions at the mosque.

Then one night he had a dream in which Jesus spoke to him: “Come to me all who are heavy burdened and I will give you rest.” Ali woke up and immediately felt as if a load had been lifted from his shoulders. “At that moment,” he said, “I woke up and told him, ‘Lord, forgive me. You are Christ, you are God and I believe.’”

Ali eventually married Chaima, the girl from the bus stop, and today they serve as church planters and evangelists among some of the most committed Muslims in western Algeria. They have led many people to Christ over the years and currently lead several small house church groups. Unlike believers in the Kabylie region, Christians in their area cannot meet openly. They meet in homes, cafés or parks, and they are watched closely by security agents, who often take them in for interrogation. 

Police have expressed confusion about the two different Alis they see in their files. When he is brought in for interrogation, inspectors pull out one file with a photo of a young, scowling, bearded jihadi and a second file with a photo of a clean-shaven man in his 40s, radiating light. “How are these both you?” they ask.

Ali then shares his testimony. “I used to see you as an enemy of God,” he explains, “but now I love you because the Bible says to love your enemies. This is what Christ did to change my heart.”

Two months after his recent visit to the national security office, Ali told a VOM worker that the interrogations never scare him. When he was a terrorist, he said, he lived with death every day, as his companions were killed fighting the government; now he lives in the promise of eternal life. 

“Honestly, the Christian life is a painful life,” Ali said. But his joy is undiminished by daily circumstances. “When I die, I know where I am going.” And he does not yearn for an easier life somewhere else. “I love my country,” he said. “Algeria is a place where Christian martyrs have flooded the earth with their blood.”

Although the city where Ali and Chaima work is very challenging, Ali said more people are wanting to know about Jesus. “[If I thought about it] with my personal mind, I would think we have a lot of persecution, so no one would be interested,” he said. “But with my faith I see the contrary; there are a lot of people [who] want to seek Jesus.”

As Ali and Chaima teach new believers, they are careful to warn them of the dangers they will face. They explain that persecution is guaranteed but encourage them to trust that Jesus will always be with them. 


The story of the church in Algeria tells of God’s work in overcoming the government’s greatest efforts to stop the spread of the gospel. Some Algerian churches are now sending Christian workers to share the gospel with Arabs not only in unreached parts of Algeria but also throughout the Middle East. “The Kabyle church is a big hope, not just for Algeria but beyond Algeria,” Ourahmane said.

Thirty years ago, few could have foreseen such a movement of God in this predominantly Muslim country. But God has chosen some of “the least of these,” the marginalized Kabyle people, to share his Good News throughout Algeria and build an irrepressible church.

Former Jihadi Turned Church Planter, Evangelist
Categories: Stories from the Field

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