Two Christian cemeteries have been vandalised in Algeria in recent weeks, reports national news site Algerie Monde Infos.
More than 30 graves were desecrated at the La Reunion War Cemetery in Oued Ghir, a town near the northern city of Bejaia, on Thursday night last week (6 September) by a group of young people, a source told the news site. The perpetrators smashed the tombstones and ransacked the graves.
The attack came after another cemetery in Ain M’lila, near Constantine, was vandalised a few weeks earlier.
The one in Oued Ghir is a Commonwealth cemetery mostly containing graves of those who were killed in the Second World War; it is maintained with support from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The tombstones carry the names of soldiers, as well as background information like their country of origin, as well as the Christian cross.
“We have never known such acts of profanation,” the mayor, Yacine Remdani, told national news site El Watan.
“I am more than 50 years old. It is the first time that we experience such an act,” a resident added, although artefacts have previously been stolen from the graveyard.
According to El Watan, desecration of graves also happens in Muslim cemeteries but in this case Islamist motives are suspected.
Churches and individual Christians in Muslim-majority Algeria have faced increased harassment in recent months, resulting in the UN urging the government to “guarantee the full exercise of their freedom of thought, conscience and religion to all”.
Algeria is ranked at number 42 on the 2018 Open Doors World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to live as a Christian.