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Muslims protested across Algeria in support of their Christian neighbors after the government shut down the country's 11 largest churches.

Muslim Algerian government shocked as Muslims organize to reopen closed Christian churches

Algerian Christians are dealing with the shock of their country’s largest churches being closed by the Muslim government that continues a brutal crackdown on a number of Christian communities.

But one thing the government has not counted on is push-back from their own Muslim citizens.

For the first time in Algeria’s modern history, Muslim citizens have reacted and supported Christian citizens. From the early morning of the mass closures, Muslim lawyers become involved, and their trips to police stations have borne fruit. Authorities were forced to release all Christian detainees arrested in the town. Reports one ministry monitoring persecution, “In the afternoon, Muslims, in a a sign of solidarity and awareness, reopened the closed church.”

It was a scene that radical Islamic authorities were not expecting in the French-speaking nation. Facebook posts of Muslims across the nation supported the Christians.

“We will not forget the main demands of the People’s Revolution; we will not accept to deviate and focus on other business. At the same time, we have no right to be fooled by the actions of those in power who deprive our fellow Christian citizens of their right to individual freedom and worship,” political activists announced on their Facebook page.

The support from Muslims comes as eleven churches were closed, including the largest protestant churches.

The Church of the Full Gospel in Tizi-Ouzou, which counts 700 members, was told by government officials that it would be shut down last week. But the day before the deadline, as the congregants gathered for prayer and worship, national guard officers stormed the building.

According to Morning Star News, many members fled the building in fear, while others were forcibly dragged out. Pastor Salah Chalah, who heads up the Protestant churches in Algeria, attempted to intervene and protect his flock, but was summarily beaten by police.

Chalah told Morning Star that “the police intervened to force us out of our church—a church that exists and has been active legally and in the light since 1996.”

READ: Algerian officials warn that “happy” children may indicate they’ve converted to Christianity

“It’s been 23 years that we exist in plain view; why wait until today to do so? May everyone know that we have been beaten and abused, including our sisters too, in our own premises for one reason only—our Christian faith,” he added. “And because that’s the cause of our pain, we’re proud of it.”

On the same day, the 500-member Source of Life Church in Makoud was also shut down.

Christian pastor makes video alerting world to the plight of Algerian churches

Footage of the raid shows members singing “Hallelujah” as police stormed the premises.

In a statement, the church’s pastor, Nourredine Benzid, said that he “never thought that one day places of worship could be invaded by the elements of security services with their weapons in front of children, women, old people and young people.”

“It is unimaginable and unacceptable in the 21st century to see such a scene occur in a place of worship and in front of pacifist people,” he added.

A Muslim-majority country, Algerian blasphemy laws make practicing Christianity extremely dangerous. In addition, churches are persecuted for not registering with an official government agency which supposedly regulates non-Islamic worship. In reality, they are often rejected when they attempt to become “official” in the government’s eyes.

Out of the 46 protestant congregations in the country, some 15 have been closed since the start of last year.

According to Open Doors USA, there are just 125,000 Christians among a population of over 42 million.

AsiaNews reports that the support of Muslims for their Christian neighbors was  “revealing” saying that, “such ideas should be adopted by all Algerians because we must create a State where all citizens are equal, regardless of their religious beliefs. This State must ensure and guarantee individual freedoms. That is why Algerians are still taking to the streets with the aim of establishing the rule of law.  And today (18 October) was the 35th Friday of the popular uprising against those who ruined the country, fueled fundamentalism and sowed division among the children of the same people.”

–Dwight Widaman