The Islamist campaign of violence in Algeria has turned some Muslims, especially Berbers, away from Islam and toward Christianity, reports the Algiers daily Al-Yawm in late December 2000, as reprinted in Courrier International, January 4-10, 2001, p. 29. The following extracts are translated from the French.
In Kabylie, people of all ages are converting to Christianity.
In certain towns and villages of Greater Kabylie, there is at least one church, as for example at Ouadhias, Draa Benkhedda, Ain el-Hammam, and Boghni. In the latter village, for instance, two churches have opened their doors during the last two years. Although the original builders of these two churches had worked in absolute secrecy, the number of citizens who have embraced Christianity has grown rapidly. The [Protestant] church of Ouadhias has played an important role in the proliferation of the number of conversions in Kabylie, and it is considered the Mother Church, never having ceased its activities, even after [Algeria's] independence  and the departure of the French and humanitarian missionaries.
At a ceremony which we witnessed, things begin with prayers, the invocation of God, and religious chants in three languages: Amazigh (a Berber language), French, and Arabic. After the sermon, one ends with prayers, some of which are for the healing of the sick.
The media have played a great part in the conversions in Kabylie, the majority of radio stations have a strong following in this region. The faithful whom we met have confirmed that information had, in their view, an important role in the legitimization of Christian doctrines. Like Saïd –who confessed that he listens a lot to [the French station] Radio Monte Carlo and particularly its popular broadcasts in Amazigh. As for Slimane, he declares that "80 percent of the reasons which impelled me towards Christianity came from Radio Monte Carlo." There are also other radio stations such as "Miracle Channel" (7SAT) [a satellite channel], and most of the faithful confirmed that they listen to these stations which broadcast the Christian message throughout the world.
Another reason for these conversions lies in the healing and nursing, which pushed a number of people towards Christianity. When we asked Saïd, 28, the reason for his conversion, he explained that he was suffering with asthma and hospitalized several times. Then a friend advised him to convert. After his release from hospital, Saïd made his way to the church and began frequenting it regularly, every Sunday, for two months. "I was healed and I have not taken any medicine since." The same reason was invoked by Noureddine who came to Christianity for "medical reasons." Rachid, the [Protestant] minister of the church, declares for his part that: "I have healed many whose faith was strong."
Of course, doubts are legitimate. Were people with chronic diseases healed? When we questioned the person responsible for the church at Ouadhias about the conversions, he replied that there were more and more every day, his church alone celebrating 50 baptisms per year.
The deterioration of the image of Islam during the crisis has played its part in this rise of conversions to Christianity and the adoption of its principles. What is happening and what has happened in Algeria, such as the massacres and killings in the name of Islam,1 has [sic] led many, when asked what the difference, in their view, was between Islam and Christianity, to declare: "Christianity is life, Islam is death." For Samia, a secondary school pupil, the proof of the difference between Islam and Christianity was the mixing and relationship between the sexes, the former forbidding it, and the latter allowing it.
As to the means used by the Churches to spread their faith, there is the distribution of Bibles in three languages, Arabic, French, and Amazigh, and video- and audio-cassettes on the life of the Messiah, son of Mary, translated into Amazigh. As to activities in general in the Great Kabylie, and at Ouadhias in particular, Pastor Djamel told us that "the faithful meet every Thursday and every Friday, which are the days of rest [the Algerian weekend is Thursday and Friday], make friends through personal contacts, helping each other in all walks of life, the family, school and work."
1 Editor's note: the total number killed in the Islamist violence since 1992 is usually estimated at 100,000.