The Challenge of North Africa
The peoples of North Africa were primarily Berbers and Coptics for thousands of years. All of this changed with the coming of Arab armies in the 7th century. Armed and unified by a new religion with a global mandate for conquest this region was quickly conquered. The process of assimilation was gradual, but eventually the Arabization of the entire region came to dominate everywhere. Due to the diversity and geographic complexity of the region, varieties of Arabic multiplied. This even affected versions of the Quran which was orally transmitted. Today there are at least seven recognized versions of the Quran in the Muslim world, and probably as many as 30 in existence. To resolve this problem, Muslim clerics came up with the idea that Allah revealed the Quran in many ways from the beginning.
For five hundred years there was a strong Christian presence in many cities along the coast of North Africa. They were primarily among the Latin speaking population. Many of the great Latin church fathers such as St. Augustine came from this area, and it was here among the diaspora that the gospel made its greatest headway among the Latins. In contrast, the Bible was never translated into Berber languages by Latin Christians. As a general rule, wherever Islam went they quickly converted peoples without the Scriptures. In places like Armenia, Assyria and Ethiopia where they had the Bible in their own language, the Church survives to this day. Today the Berbers are strongly Muslim, though remnants of Christian influence can still be seen in their use of the cross as a symbol to ward off evil.
The Coptics in Egypt are a similar story, though they thankfully they had the Scriptures in their language and so a strong remnant remains. By the time Islam came in the 7th century all of Egypt was Christianized. Over many centuries Islam eroded away at the Coptic majority through a process of gradual attrition. Islam made it difficult for Christian's by charging them an extra tax. If someone converted, the tax was removed. Many who converted did so only nominally to avoid paying this tax. But eventually for their children and grand-children the faith became real. These converts were eventually absorbed into Arabic culture and over centuries of intermarriage became completely Arabized.
And once you are in Islam there is no getting out--unless you are willing to give up your life. The legal penalty in Islam for leaving is death. Often this is carried out by family members in so-called "honor killings." The idea is this convert has brought shame on the entire family and thus the family itself has the obligation to cleanse its shame. This is the sad history of North Africa. But the final chapter has not yet been written. Our God and Savior Jesus Christ will write the final word. Deliveraance in His name shall come, and is happening even now.