The five countries of North Africa are always among fifty persecuting countries listed by "Open Doors," a Christian ministry that specializes in the defence of persecuted churches and Christians worldwide. The ministry has just released its annual "WorldWatchList," ranking the persecuting countries (see www.opendoors.org). North Korea is still at the head of the list, followed by Iran, Saudi Arabia and Somalia.
The situation of Christians in North Africa, on the whole, is deteriorating. All these countries are moving up on this black list, except for Algeria, which went from 19th to 25th.
According to its criteria, the association « Open Doors » emphasizes that the treatment of Christians has improved during the last year in Algeria.
The repressive measures taken in 2007 and 2008 against the Christians have lessened because of international pressure. Today, church leaders have the impression that the situation is "frozen," but they fear that that the March 2006 law will be strengthened as soon as international pressure diminishes. The intent of the law to prevent Muslims from converting to Christianity. It calls for a prison sentence or fine to be imposed on anyone who "incites, forces or uses means of manipulation in trying to convert a Muslim to another religion", or who "makes, stocks or distributes printed documents or any other means, designed to shake the faith of a Muslim".
Mauritania is now among the top ten countries where Christians are persecuted. It is in 8th place, while in 2009 it was in 18th place. Open Doors comments:
In June an American Christian aid worker was assassinated. Responsibility for the murder was claimed by Al-Qaida in the Maghreb (AQIM, a terrorist group with Algerian origins that has recently joined the network of Al-Qaida and has extended its activities throughout North Africa. In July, 35 Mauritanian Christians were arrested and tortured by the local police. In August, 150 Sub-Saharan Christians were interrogated for having organized meetings in their own church (only a couple of catholic and protestant churches for expatriates have the right to organize church services). According to the country's constitution, Islam is the official religion in Mauritania. The government seeks to limit religious freedom by forbidding the printing and distributing of non-Muslim literature and the evangelism of Muslims.
Lybia ( 25th in 2009) has moved into 22nd place in this persecution index. The situation in the other two large North African countries is deteriorating as well since Morocco went from 40th to 37th place and Tunisia now occupies the 43rd position although it had been 47th in 2009. This is how the leaders of Open Doors describe the situation in Tunisia:
"In 2009, acts of repression and harsh identity controls have affected local Christians and churches in the country. A number of Christians were interrogated and some of them were beaten by the police. The freedom of expression of Christians is limited. Any kind of evangelism is seen as undermining public law and order and therefore illegal. Visas for Christian expatriates suspected of proselytizing are not renewed and their employers have been encouraged not to renew their work contracts. The constitution allows for religious freedom but specifies that public law has to adhere to the teaching of Islam...."