The persecution of Christians in Algeria: Suleiman Bouhafs, a Christian who fled to Tunisia, is facing the danger of Islamists. He is now seeking help.

Suleiman Bouhafs, 49, an Evangelical Christian from the Kabylie region in Algeria, was sentenced by the Algerian judiciary to three years in prison for Facebook posts "attacking Islam and Muhammad", in 2016.

Suleiman Bouhafs had been accused of publishing anti-Islamic publications on his Facebook account. At first he was sentenced to five years in prison, and the sentence was reduced to three years and then to twenty months of detention. He was supported by the Algerian League for Human Rights, which provided him with a lawyer.

Even if the Algerian constitution guarantees - in principle - freedom of worship, Article 2 of this Basic Text nonetheless states that "Islam is the religion of the state." Algerian justice systematically condemns people who express their "disagreement " with Islam, and even critical voices.

In another post on the same Facebook page, on June 18, 2016, Suleiman Bouhafs sent an open letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, denouncing the "Islamization of Algerian society" and the state's crackdown on the Ahmadi , the Muslim religious minority and Christian.

Suleiman has started a hunger strike despite his already poor health. Because of his faith, he was assaulted several times by fellow prisoners, according to the Algerian newspaper El Watan. Suleiman received support from international human rights organizations and Christians in Algeria , until the authorities released him in 2018, he was deprived of his civil rights, and was forced to leave the country to go to Tunisia, due to the danger posed to him by extremists. But even the situation in this Islamic country is no different from its neighbor, Algeria.

In the second century AD, Christianity was already present in Algeria, moreover, the philosopher Saint Augustine is the most famous figure who inspired the West, born in Algeria. After the Arab-Islamic invasion in the eighth century, this historical figure almost disappeared. In the 15th century, the Spaniards reintroduced him to the country but soon the Ottomans obliterated the history. After 1830, the French reestablished this historical symbol in North Africa for the public to recognize, as Catholic missionaries and some Protestant churches were established.

Today, anyone sharing their faith or giving the Bible to a Muslim can be interpreted as a violation of the law, which limits the freedom of Christians to express their faith in most areas of life. The arrest of Christians and the closure of their churches explains the high level of violence this year, and Algeria's rise in the index to the 17th position for 2020, according to the Persecution Index ranking issued by the Open Doors Foundation.

In an open letter relayed on social networks on Monday, October 26, Slimane Bouhafs, a former prisoner of conscience, issued a cry of distress and issued a request for asylum in a European country.

The Ath Wartilan native , fled Algeria after being the victim of an arbitrary conviction. "I was arrested and sentenced during 2016 to three years in prison for my posts on the social network Facebook, which were deemed to be against the Muslim religion," he recalls. Incarcerated in Jijel Prison, he went on a hunger strike in 2017 before being released a year later.

"After my release in March 2018, things got more and more difficult for me because I feel threatened everywhere, even my pay was taken away from me for no specific reason," explained the asylum seeker. He therefore decided to move with his family to Tunisia where he applied for asylum.

However, being still in another Muslim country, this Kabyle Christian has often found himself confronted with Tunisian Islamists who also did not hesitate to threaten him. The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Tunis has therefore initiated an asylum procedure for a third country.

Converted to Christianity in 1998, this 53-year-old father recounted through his letter the many threats and harassment he suffered. "I was also physically attacked by people in my village and had to move for several years to be able to protect my family," he regretted.

According to Slimane Bouhafs, his family in Algeria is deprived of all opportunities. “I am the father of three children, holder of two degrees, but still cannot find a job, and things are complicated for them because of my background case in Algeria. My other child is still a student. My situation in Tunisia is in danger and I am afraid for myself and my family, "he worries.

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Elina metovitch

ناقدة وباحثة في الإسلاميات، موتوا بغيظكم

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