Two men are facing trial in Algeria after one of their wives, a Muslim, accused them of trying to convert her to Christianity. Rachid Ouali and his 67-year-old friend, Ali Larchi, were summoned before a judge in the town of Bouir after Ouali’s wife alleged that the pair brought her to church and urged her to leave the Islamic faith.
The two men have denied the accusations, and Ouali’s wife allegedly later told her husband that she had made the complaint while under pressure from her Muslim relatives. According to her complaint, Ouali’s wife was at lunch with the two men when they started sharing their testimonies of Christ’s goodness and faithfulness in their own lives. She recalled that the pair mentioned Jesus several times and exclaimed “Hallelujah” to each other, as reported by Morning Star News.
Hearing their conversation, the woman jumped up and shouted, “You have brought me here to convert me and to deny my religion. You laid a trap for me,” according to Ouali.
“She kept raising her voice to make herself heard outside,” he noted.
The wife, who has remained unnamed, then left the house and went to see relatives, including her brothers, who are both policemen. It was there that she was encouraged to make a formal complaint about her own husband and his friend.
Algeria enforces strict laws on evangelistic activities. The country’s notorious “Law 03/06″ seeks to impose a prison term of two to five years and a fine of 500,000 to 1 million dinars ($4,343 to $8,687) if anyone “incites, constrains, or utilizes means of seduction tending to convert a Muslim to another religion, or using for this purpose the institutions of education, health, social, cultural, or educational institutions, or other establishment, or financial advantage; or makes, stores or distributes printed documents or films or other audiovisual medium or means intended to undermine the faith of a Muslim.”
Later, Ouali said his wife confessed that her family had coerced her into filing the legal complaint.
“I did not want to do it; it was my brothers who forced me to do it,” she allegedly admitted, adding, “I’m stuck between my family and my husband, I do not know what to do.”
Sadek Najib, the lawyer representing the pair of Christian men, said that he is confident his clients will escape punishment after a scheduled Oct. 9 hearing was postponed at the request of the complainant.
“If this woman denies having been forced to be a Christian and to renounce Islam, the case will be closed,” Najib said. “The prosecution will be canceled since their accusation is unfounded.”
According to persecution watchdog Open Doors USA, there are just 68,500 Christians currently residing in the Muslim-majority nation of Algeria, among a population totaling over 40 million.
“The pressure that Algerian Christians experience in all areas of life makes it difficult for them to openly practice their faith,” reads an Open Doors fact sheet for the North African country. “Much of this pressure is due to 99 percent of the country’s population identifying as Muslim.”
Open Doors also rightly noted that the fiercely stringent laws on evangelism make “proselytizing and public expression of the Christian faith dangerous” those who wish to share their faith.
“Even casual conversations between friends and family members regarding faith can be grounds for blasphemy charges,” the organization added.
But the difficulty doesn’t stop there. In rural areas, Open Doors highlighted, the “danger is even greater,” with Christians suffering “harassment and discrimination” from members of the community “who pressure or force them to adhere to Islamic norms and rites surrounding marriage, burial and other life events.”
(H/T: Morning Star News)