The Countries of North Africa

To the people of the Middle East, North Africa has long been known as "The Maghreb" ("The West"). Europeans have called the region "The Barbary States", or simply "Barbary" after the name of the indigenous Berbers, who are now outnumbered by Arabs and Arabized Berbers.

To the rest of the world, North Africa is simply the northern African Mediterranean coastal belt, stretching from the Atlantic Ocean on the west to the Egyptian desert on the east. It includes the countries of Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya.

To modern Christian missiologists, North Africa is the western end of the 10/40 Window. (The 10/40 Window is the region between 10 and 40 degrees latitude, extending from North Africa through East Asia. It encompases over three and one-half billion people, including most of the world's Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists.) Covering more than 1,830,000 square miles (4,750,000 square kilometers), it is about half the size of the United States or China. Well over four-fifths of the region is desert.

From the vastness of their mountian ranges, the native peoples of the Maghreb resisted successive Punic and Roman invasions. When the Arabs finally conquered the region in the 7th and 8th centuries, they imposed their language - Arabic - and their religion - Islam - on the native peoples. Yet most of North African societies have preserved their cultural identity throughout the centuries.

The North African soul seeks peace between contradictory poles - traditions of centuries and modernization, instinct and reason, pleasure and asceticism. In recent years, more and more North Africans are finding new peace in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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Algeria - After a bitter way of liberation, Algeria gained its independance from France in 1962 and adopted a one-party socialist system of government. Then in 1992, there was a move towards a democratization of the government. A protracted battle for control of the country has followed between radical Muslim groups and the army. The ensuing seven years of civil war has killed as many as 80,000 of Algeria's approximately 30 million people. A dire economic situation has left millions in poverty. In spite of the turmoil, many people have come to Christ amidst Algeria's chaos.

Mauritania - Lying on the Atlantic at the western end of the Sahara, Mauritania is often covered in dust of desert sandstorms. Frequent droughts over the past 20 years have devistated this impoverished country, causing massive migration of it's people to the capital city and other towns, but those who had traditionally lived a nomadic lifestyle in the desert. Inter-ethnic violence broke out over the limited amount of water and usable land. Numerous military coups followed independance from France in 1960, although there has been more stability following the 1992 election of a civilian government. No freedom of religion exists in Mauritania. In the eyes of the law, all citizens are Sunni Muslims subject to Shariah law. All Christian evangelistic efforts are illegal, as is the conversion to another religion. Conversion to Christianity could bring the death sentance. Despite this, a small number of Mauritanians have come to faith in the Lord Jesus. Finding fellowship, however, is a major challenge for them.

Tunisia - Tunisia' northern and western mountains give way to the hot, dry central plain, while the south is covered by the Sahara Desert. Its diverse economy mixes petroleum and phosphate mining with tourism, agriculture, and a growing industrial base. The ancient civilization of Carthage thrived here 200 years before Christ. In modern times Tunisia was ruled by France until 1956. Today Islam is Tunisia's state religion. Though tolerance is shown to forigners of other faiths, Christian witness has, at times, been strongly opposed. The nine million people of Tunisia are almost totally unreached, and there are few known evangelical believers.

Morocco - Two mountain chains, the Rif along the northern coast and the Atlas in the center, divide eastern Morocco from Atlantic Morocco to the west, providing a home for some 30 million people. High levels of unemployment continue and put a strain on the resources of many families.

Formerly a protectorate of both France and Spain, Morocco became an independant kingdom in 1956. Invading Arab armies brought Islam in the seventh century. The royal family has been committed to preserving Islam as the religion of all Moroccans. In the last 30 years a number of Moroccans have put their faith in Christ.

Morocc and the Algerian-based Polisario Front both claim Western Sahara, a phosphate-rich desert region in extreme northewestern Africa that holds as much as three-fourths of the world's phosphate deposits.

Libya The Sahara Desert covers more than ninety percent of Libya, which is endowed with rich reserves of oil. Many of Libya's 5.6 million Arab and Berber people live in cities along it's Mediterranean coast.

Libya has been ruled by a succession of foreign empires over the centuries. In 1969 a coup led to the establishment of the regime led by the People's Committee headed by Mu'ammr Qadaffi.

The demand for specialized labor has brought into Libya a number of forigners who are employed to work in oil and engineering projects, as well as other skills and technical trades. Most Libyans have yet to have an opportunity to hear and respond to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.


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11/22/99