Two Algerian Christians have received suspended jail terms and fines for involvement in converting Muslims to Christianity. The ruling follows a series of trials extending back to November 2007.
The verdict has disappointed Algeria’s growing Christian community, but does not come as a surprise. Recently, a number of Algerian churches have been closed on the pretext of not complying with a 2006 law that strictly regulates the religious activities of non-Muslims.
In the case of these two defendants, Rachid Seghir and Djallal Dahmani, the suspended six month jail terms and 100,000 dinar fines were handed out for ‘distributing documents in order to disrupt the Muslim faith’, according to their lawyer.
In a brief telephone statement to Reuters, Seghir confirmed that they will appeal this latest sentence. ‘We are disappointed by the verdict but we are not ashamed of our religion’, he said.
The development of Christianity in Algeria is supported by Arab Vision, which works with Algerian Christians to produce satellite TV programmes for Algerians. Earlier this year, a group of Algerian church leaders produced 31 TV programmes to provide biblical training for the many newly formed church groups in Algeria.
Christian TV programmes, such as those produced by Arab Vision, are also deemed to be unlawful under the 2006 law because they have been particularly effective in leading Muslims to the Christian faith.
Meanwhile, in Texas, a Muslim group claims to have distributed over a million free copies of the Koran to homes in Houston. It claims this will develop better understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims.