Conversions

Source: El Youm, Algiers, reprinted in Courrier International No.531  4 -10 January, 2001, p.29. Trans. from French by Ibn Warraq.

In Kabylie, people of all ages are converting to Christianity. In certain towns and villages of Greater Kabylie, there is at least one church, as for example at Ouadhias, Draa Benkhedda, Ain el-Hammam and Boghni. In the latter village, for instance, two churches have opened their doors during the last two years. Although the original builders of these two churches had worked in absolute secrecy, the number of citizens who have embraced Christianity has grown rapidly. The (Protestant) church of Ouadhias has played an important role in the proliferation of the number of conversions in Kabylie, and it is considered the Mother Church, never having ceased its activities, even after Independence[1962] and the departure of the French and humanitarian missionaries.

At a ceremony which we witnessed, everything begins with prayers, the invocation of God and religious chants in three languages: Amazigh (a Berber language), French and Arabic. After the sermon, one ends with prayers, some of which are for the healing of the sick. The media have played a great part in the conversions in Kabylie, the majority of radio stations have a strong following in this region. The faithful whom we met have confirmed that information had, in their view, an important role in the legitimation of Christian doctrines. Like Saïd -who confessed that he listens a lot to Radio Monte Carlo and particularly the popular broadcasts in Amazigh. As for Slimane, he declares that " 80% of the reasons which impelled me towards Christianity came from Radio Monte Carlo ". There are also other radio stations such as " Miracle Channel " (7SAT) [a satellite channel received via dishes], and most of the faithful confirmed that they listen to these stations which broadcast the Christian message across the world.

Another reason for these conversions lies in the healing and nursing, which pushed a number of people towards Christianity. When we asked Saïd, 28, the reason for his conversion, he explained that he was suffering with asthma and hospitalized several times. Then a friend advised him to convert. After his release from hospital, Saïd made his way to the church and began frequenting it regularly, every Sunday, for two months. " I was healed and I have not taken any medicine since."  The same reason was invoked by Noureddine who came to Christianity for "medical reasons."  Rachid, the (Protestant) minister of the church, declares for his part that:" I have healed many whose faith was strong."

Protestantism is More Strongly Developed

Of course, doubts are legitimate. Were people with chronic diseases healed? When we questioned the person responsible for the church at Ouadhias about the conversions, he replied that there were more and more every day, his church alone celebrating 50 baptisms per year. The deterioration of the image of Islam during the crisis has played its part in this rise of conversions to Christianity and the adoption of its principles. What is happening and what has happened in Algeria, such as the massacres and killings [in the holy month of Ramadan, December,2000, alone, 340 people were killed, making a total of 2700 killed by the Islamists in the year 2000. Source CI.No.531] in the name of Islam, has led many, when asked what the difference, in their view, was between Islam and Christianity, to declare: " Christianity is life, Islam is death."  For Samia, a secondary school pupil, the proof of the difference between Islam and Christianity was the mixing and relationship between the sexes, the former forbidding it, and the latter allowing it.  

As to the means used by the Churches to spread their faith, there is the distribution of Bibles in three languages, Arabic, French, and Amazigh, and video- and audio-cassettes on the life of the Messiah, son of Mary, translated into Amazigh. As to activities in general in the Great Kabylie, and at Ouadhias in particular, Pastor Djamel told us that " the faithful meet every Thursday and every Friday, which are the days of rest [the Algerian weekend is Thursday and Friday], make friends through personal contacts, helping each other in all walks of like, the family, school and work."  As to the financement of these places of worship, we were told that the Churches of Ouadhias and Boghni were entirely supported by the gifts of the faithful. At the end of each month, workers pay in 10% of their salary, on top of the donations, as Pastor Djamel explained.  And they refuse all other help whether it is from Christian Leagues or Organisations of Christian Propaganda throughout the world, or governments.  But this seems rather doubtful for we think that the gifts of the faithful are not sufficient to buy these very beautiful books of the New Testament, all these copies of cassettes, and the construction of churches which open their doors every day. There is an association which takes care of the burial of Christians according to the person responsible at the Church of Boghni; it is financed by traders and some rich citizens.

There is one difference between the Catholics and Protestants which concerns the life of Protestants; the latter believe that one should lead a life that is similar to other members of society. Pastors marry in contrast to Catholic priests, who dedicate their entire lives to the spiritual and religious, and adopt a particular way of life where marriage is denied. That is one of the reasons why Protestantism is more developed in Algeria than Catholicism. Furthermore, the latter has created a hierarchical structure in the Church, while the former has made do with a pastor who looks after the church. Despite these differences, there remains the ultimate end which unites the two doctrines: the Christianisation by all the available means of the population and the spreading of the Gospel of Christ throughout the world. Let the person responsible for the church be English or French, the essential is conversion and the fact of attracting towards themselves the greatest number of people which allows a dominion over any place their belief is disseminated.