Friday, January 25, 2008

"Christianity is Life"

[Via Mac] A fascinating article from the Middle East Quarterly from 2001, which reprints a piece in the Algerian daily, Al-Yawm, about the rise in conversions to Christianity, particularly among Berbers, in response to Islamist violence.

This is dated information: the original piece dates from 2000. It would be really interesting hear what has happened since then.
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 [Algeria's] independence [1962] and the departure of the French and humanitarian missionaries.

At a ceremony which we witnessed, things begin 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 legitimization of Christian doctrines. Like Saïd –who confessed that he listens a lot to [the French station] Radio Monte Carlo and particularly its popular broadcasts in Amazigh. As for Slimane, he declares that "80 percent 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], and most of the faithful confirmed that they listen to these stations which broadcast the Christian message throughout 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."
[Of course, it's a Protestant church. Always is these days, right?]

1 comment:

Mac said...

Actually, it came to me from an Arab eastern-rite Catholic, who I think doesn't especially focus on the question of what sort of Christian people in that part of the world are. (Apart from slightly snarky remarks about Copts being inbred: that is possibly because the Copts have closed communion and he was denied the sacrament in a Coptic church and took it somewhat amiss.) The Berbers are fairly determinedly not Arabs ("we just speak the language"), unlike many other Arabic-speaking Middle Easterners and North Africans who are also, strictly speaking, not actually Arabs. It's an amazing journey for those whose ancestors were Christian, who became Muslim after the Arab conquest and who now return to Christianity. One wonders if its viable in the long term.