Algeria was first conquered by Arabs in the 8th century. After suffering under Arab, Berber, and Turkish empires for a thousand years, it was colonized by the French in 1830. Algeria won independence in 1962 after an eight-year war that left one million dead. Algeria is 98% Muslim, and the government tightly controls Algerian Islam in its fight against extremism.
Though most Algerians are ethnically Berber, after centuries of Arab influence, most see themselves as Arab. Algerian Arabic is spoken by 85% of Algeria’s 42.5 million people. Arabic and French are taught in school, and since university studies are mostly in French, 25 million are fluent.
Algerians are largely literate and well educated. Algerian women are significant leaders in fields such as law, medicine, and education. Algerians have achieved remarkable levels of education even though most of its 48 universities and 44 other post-secondary institutions have been founded just since independence.
Algeria’s economy is built on oil and gas resources. There are high rates of youth unemployment (22%) and a severe housing shortage. Although Algeria is the biggest country in Africa, most of it is desert, and 90% of its people live along the mountainous Mediterranean coastal region.
Generally, Algerians suffer from a lack of basic civil and human rights because the country is controlled by an authoritarian government which has abused its power since independence.
Weeks of protests across Algeria in 2019 pushed elderly President Bouteflika to resign after 20 years of rule. The demonstrations, organized by millennials, were peaceful and positive, calling for more democracy, less corruption, and a radical change to the current system of government.
It is hoped that the president’s resignation will lead to the needed reforms first demanded during the 2012 Arab Spring demonstrations. There is widespread public perception of corruption and exploitation in the former president’s inner circle. The powerful, elderly leaders who fought for independence decades earlier are being asked to turn over power to a younger generation.
Protestant ministry among Algerian Arabs was begun in the 19th century by amazing pioneers like Lilias Trotter. By the 1980s, a number of Arab churches were established. Since then, God has moved in a powerful way among the Kabyle Berbers, such that there are now tens of thousands of Kabyle Christians.
Sadly, there has not been a similar response among the Arab majority. Since the end of the Algerian civil war (1991-2002), when all missionaries were forced to leave the country or be killed by the Islamists, only a few westerners have been able to return long-term.
Encouragingly, Kabyle Christians are catching the vision to reach out to Arabs. Most churches in Kabylia conduct their worship services in French, Kabyle, and Arabic so as to make non-Kabyle visitors feel welcome.
Generally, there is freedom for Algerian Christians to build churches and publicly declare their faith. There are many resources available in Standard Arabic online, etc., but not much in the Algerian dialect.