This banner, which reads “Kabylie in solidarity with Iraqi Yezidi and Christians,” was hung between two trees in front of a police station. (World Watch Monitor)

The assassination of a French tourist by militants in Algeria has raised the fear of new terrorist attacks in the country. Hervé Gourdel, 55, was beheaded on Sept. 24 by a radical Islamist group “Soldiers of the Caliphate,” linked to Islamic State in Iraq, in the northeastern region of Kabylie.

Gourdel, who was an experienced hiker, was kidnapped on Sept. 21, along with five Algerians, but his companions were released 14 hours later.

His murder has sparked a wave of indignation and anger, notably via social media. It reminds Algeria and the world of the civil war of the 1990s, also known as ”The Black Decade” when more than 150,000 people died violently, while thousands of others went missing. This followed the annulment of an election won by an Islamist group, after which the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) sought to gain power, opposed by the Algerian military. 

Now, members of the Christian community in Bejaia, one of the main cities in Kabylie, are particularly concerned over the threats posed by militants. “If we consider the fate reserved by IS fighters for Iraqi Christians, there is genuine reason to express concerns over the church in Algeria. That is why we must be vigilant,” said Omar, 31, member of a Protestant church in Bejaia.

For Selma, 26, another Christian in Bejaia, the church constitutes a potential target for terrorists, who have shown “their desire to establish an Islamic theocratic regime everywhere they stamp their feet, to the cost of other beliefs.

“Frankly, I am worried. Christians should be mobilized in prayer against this approaching darkness.”

On Saturday, many Catholic believers gathered in Bejaia to address this issue among others. Reacting to the killing of the French hostage, the Rector of the Basilica of St. Augustine in Annaba (400 km east of Algiers, the capital), has strongly condemned the ”barbaric” act.

“This is the first time I shed tears since I arrived in Algeria four years ago. I really cried when I heard the news of the decapitation of the French hostage. I was touched by his murder,” said Father Ambroise Tshibangu Tshiasuma.

The death of Gourdel has brought back the memories of the murder of seven Cistercian Trappist monks of Tibhirine, killed in a similar way in 1996. The seven monks, all French men, were kidnapped on the night of March 26 to 27, 1996, in their monastery near Medea (90 km south of Algiers, the capital). They were well-liked, and, despite knowing the dangers they faced, chose to stay in Algeria and died at the hands of the GIA. Two members of the community escaped, and the last survivor wrote an account ‘The Last Monk of Tibhirine’. This later became a moving docu-drama ‘Of Gods and Men’, which won the Grand Prix at Cannes Film Festival in 2010, and also awards for ‘Best Foreign Film’.

Other Catholic clerics have also lost their lives in Algeria, notably the Archbishop of Oran, Mgr Pierre Claverie, killed in a terrorist attack in August 1996, and  four bishops known as “White Fathers,” killed in their chapel in Tizi Ouzou on Dec. 27, 1994, by militants. 

Written by Illia Djadi/World Watch Monitor
Read more at Charisma

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