- Last Updated: 14 May 2013
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Kabylie covers several districts or wilayas of Algeria and is divided into two : Big Kabylie and Small Kabylie, equally referred to as Upper and Lower Kabylie. Although this name makes reference to a geographic division related to the elevation of the mountain range, it also corresponds to a linguistic distinction between the speakers of 2 principle dialects of the Kabyle language.
Three large mountain chains occupy a large portion of this region : the Kabylie Coastal chain in the north, the Djurdjura in the south, culminating with Mt. Tamgout Aalayen (2308m), and the Agawa chain, located between the other two with an average altitude of 800m and the densest population of the three chains. Tizi-Ouzou is found in the latter.
The population of Kabylie is estimated between 7 and 10 million people. The region is very densely populated and the population density often surpasses 250 inhabitants per km2. A significant number of Kabyles live outside of the region most notably Alger, where they make up more than half the population. Many Kabyles can be found living abroad as well (France, Europe as well as Canada).
Bejaia, with its 230,000 inhabitants, is the economic center of Kabylie as well as the capital of Lower Kabylie. Locally it is referred to as 'Bgayet n Lejdud' or 'ancestor's candle'. Tizi-Ouzou, the capital of Upper Kabylie, formerly known as 'the village' has around 150,000 inhabitants and serves as the cultural capital of Kabylie.
Larbaa Nath Irathen, formerly Fort National, with a population of 28,000 in 2001, is the urban center at the highest elevation of the region.
Since independence in 1962 the region has been involved in several civil conflicts and uprisings. Notably in 1980 Kabylie experienced several months of protests and demonstrations in support of establishing the Berber language as an official language of the state. This cultural revival intensified as the government stepped up efforts to Arabize the nation in the 1990s. In June and July of 1998 the region was inflamed anew by the assassination of the singer Matoub Lounes and by the enforcement of a law giving preference to the use of the Arabic language in all domains. April 2001 witnessed a series of intense riots provoked by the death of a young man at the hand of a gendarme (police officer). These riots highlighted the growing divide between the government and the Berber peoples. This season of violence was called the Black Spring. A demand for autonomy that until then had been made only by certain intellectuals was now taken up by the Kabylie Movement for Autonomy (MAK) led by the singer Ferhat Mehenni. However this movement did not gain much momentum. Still others such as the Berber Arouch Citizen's Movement have raised the call for formal recognition of the cultural diversity that Algeria enjoys including recognition of the Berber identity.
The traditional economy of the region rests heavily on the cultivation of trees (orchards and olive groves), beekeeping and artisanal crafts (silversmiths, weavers and potters). Kabylie benefits significantly from the aid and support of the Kabyle diaspora. The region receives aid from outside sources for the development of infrastructure (roads, transportation, libraries) which often the national government of Algeria has abandoned. However, this accentuates the Kabyle villages' autonomy with successful management of this aid.
According to Joshua Project (choose Algeria|Berber,Kabyle) 97.4% are Muslims with 2.0% being evangelical Christians. The Jesus Film, New Testament and satellite broadcasts are available in their language.
The following is taken from anOpen Door website:"Given this situation, how is the gospel spreading, especially in the Kabyle regions? God’s solutions have been evident, the Algerian Christian points out. The 1995 development of satellite TV has provided amazing in roads for spreading the gospel in Algeria. Today the majority of people can be reached through this medium. ...At the end of the satellite programs, viewers see a local telephone number displayed on the screen. The callers are directed to places where they can find a church, or receive Christian books and CDs.
The Jesus film has consistently been a powerful tool, because the film is translated into the Kabyle language. Even people asked where in the Kabyle region the film was shot; the movie is very topical and adapted to the local culture.
Protestant churches (about 50 in Algeria) generally range in membership from 50 to 200, though the largest, in Tizi Ouzou, has some 1000 members attending the services. It is estimated that there are 30,000 Protestants in Algeria, but the actual number could be as high as 60,000 to 100,000."
There is persecution through threats, prison terms, rejection by the believers' family and harrassment at work. All kinds of pressure are put upon the new believers, but that has resulted in more people believing in Jesus. The churches are beginning a purposeful, planned discipleship program.
The Open Doors Worldwatch List ranks 50 countries where persecution of Christians for religious reasons is worst. Algeria is listed as #29 – moderate persecution.