Simo is a tall man with straight posture, hinting at his careers in the army and later as a police investigator. Like many of his countrymen, Simo was born a Muslim but had always held his faith lightly. It was tradition and it was culture, but he had felt more loyalty to his country than to his Muslim religion. In the early ’90s, Algeria transitioned from a one-party political system to a multi-party system, and surprisingly an Islamist party then won the election. To avoid the possibility of a government led by extremists, the army quickly took over, launching an insurgency that lasted six years. Simo served as a police detective during the insurgency, and one day he found himself interrogating a young Muslim man who justified his violent actions by citing the Quran and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad. “I thought, if all this is right and Islam is telling us to kill, then Islam is not a religion and I cannot follow it anymore,” Simo said. Disillusioned with the religion he had grown up in, Simo began to consider Christianity. After visiting some churches, including a Kabyle Protestant church, he noticed a real difference between followers of

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Categories: Stories from the Field

Christianity has flourished in Algeria over the last few decades, growing at a rate of 8% annually compared with the global evangelical growth rate of 2.6%. Most of the growth in Algeria has occurred among the Kabyle Berber people, a minority ethnic group in the mountainous eastern part of the country who speak Kabyle rather than Arabic. Today, Algeria is home to the largest congregation of Christian converts from Islam in the world. And the Algerian government has taken notice, closing at least 11 churches in 2018. In 2018, the Ministry of Religion sent a threatening letter to the church in Tizi Ouzo where Dassin serves as worship leader. The church, warned authorities, might be closed down because of inadequate safety equipment such as fire extinguishers. Leaders of the 250-member Kabyle church knew they must take the government’s warning seriously because it had already closed other churches in the region. However, they also knew the complaints were invalid because the Ministry of Religion was citing old information. The church had addressed the safety issues long ago, and authorities had not re-inspected the building. “They just want to harass us again,” Dassin explained. Tension has remained high between the church and

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Categories: Stories from the Field

Worshipers stand shoulder to shoulder on the auditorium floor as musicians sing and play joyfully from the stage. The balcony is also crowded, and even more people cluster around doors and windows to join in worship. The most surprising thing about this packed service, however, is its location — it’s taking place in Muslim-majority Algeria, where religions other than Islam face tight government restrictions. As evidenced by this worship service, the restrictions haven’t hindered the Berber Christians living in northern Algeria. Within the last 30 years, the Berber people have reclaimed their heritage as the original inhabitants of the region, rejecting the language, culture and religion imposed on them by Arab Islamic invaders beginning in the seventh century. Having rejected Islam, many Berbers are now embracing Christianity. Both registered and unregistered Christian churches are growing exponentially in the region, some consisting of a handful of believers in a living room and others meeting in newly constructed church buildings with a complete church staff. Some of the churches VOM works with have even sent missionaries from their own congregations to share Christ with Algeria’s Arab population, the very people who have oppressed Berber Christians for centuries. Churches are allowed to meet

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Categories: Stories from the Field