16 Arrested in Algeria for Having Bibles

ROME, AUG. 3, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Police in Algeria recently arrested 16 young people for possessing Bibles and other Christian documents.

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They were arrested July 26 in Cap Falcon, 450 kilometers (280 miles) west of Algiers, by police of Ain El-Turck, according to the newspaper Le Quotidien d´Oran.

Authorities said those arrested range in age from 20 to 31 and are members of a Christian denomination from central Algeria. They had approached vacationers, one of whom alerted the authorities. Proselytism by Christians is considered a crime in predominantly Muslim Algeria.

Muslims who convert to another religion risk a death sentence. Yet, the Church in France estimates that hundreds of former Muslims — many of them Algerian immigrants — were among the 2,500 catechumens who were baptized at Easter in 1999.

Conversions also occur in Algeria itself. The newspaper Al-Yaum in April denounced the «frightful» expansion of missionary activity, which it linked to disdain for terrorism by Muslim fundamentalists.

In May 1996, the Armed Islamic Group murdered seven Trappist monks at the monastery in Thibirine. The following August the same group used a bomb to kill Bishop Pierre Claverie of Oran.

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