A Marian shrine in Algeria

 The Basilica of Our Lady of Africa stands on a cliff overlooking the bay of Algiers. The church, the construction of which was begun in 1872, is visited by Muslims as well as Catholics. Women, young girls and grandmothers, alone or accompanied, can be seen praying here in front of the beautiful bronze statue of Our Lady of Africa clothed in a richly embroidered Tlemcen style garment. The church custodians say many Muslim visitors ask about Mary, about the Bible, why the four Gospels. They spend time looking at decoration, the Stations of the Cross, and frescoes of the life of Saint Augustine the 4th century Bishop of Hippo, born in Tagaste. Augustine is Christianity's first and most famous Algerian. Below the frescoes runs a phrase of St Augustine in Arabic, French and Cabila: "Brotherly love comes from God and is God". Algeria was Christian and Marian from the 2nd century AD. Numidia (Berbers are Numids), was colonised long before the Christian era by the Phoenecians who settled along the coasts while the Berbers held the centre of the country. In 200 BC the kingdom passed under the dominion of the Roman Empire for nine centuries until the Arab invasion and Islamisation. However the Arab-Islamic conquest was slow and arduous because this part of northern Africa had a flourishing Christian community. The conversion to Christianity of Roman Emperor Constantine in the 3rd century increased the Church's influence in northern Africa. Carthage became important as the city of Saint Augustine a Berber Christian and one of the most universally known Doctors of the Catholic Church. Algeria has many Christian basilicas and shrines. But with the Arab invasion, the Church of Africa was decimated and was only re-established here in 1830 with the arrival of France. Although Islamised and shaken by bloody violence, Algeria, an ancient Christian and Marian land, a land of martyrs' is still entrusted to Our Lady of Africa. Muslims too respect the Blessed Virgin Miriam, the Holy Mother of Jesus. And along with Christians still today many Muslims come to pray and lay flowers in front of the statue of the Blessed Virgin in this great Basilica dedicated to Our Lady of Africa where underneath the main altar lies the inscription: "Our Lady of Africa pray for us and for all Muslims'. Source: Fides

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