A local Muslim woman donates her time on Thursdays to work in our library and, for some time now, has also been taking people, both Algerians and visiting foreigners, around the Basilica of Hippo.
This illustrates what we as Christians, and above all as Augustinians, are called to be here in Algeria: the Church of Christ in and for Muslim and Algerian society, the disciples of Augustine among his own compatriots.
For us, living the human and spiritual adventure with the Algerian people is the religious and Augustinian calling to serve all people.
There was an earlier time in which it was forbidden to talk about Augustine. For too many years following Algerian independence, Augustine was viewed as a defender of Roman colonial imperialism.
The intervention of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the dark years of terrorism, the great international convention on Augustine in Algiers and Annaba in 2002, have all helped change the course of Algerian history and altered the popular mentality.
The most radical change has been concerning Saint Augustine himself. Algerians, passionate as he was, now want at all costs to appropriate his figure and his heritage.
In the year 2004, the 1,650th year since the birth of Augustine, the government is making an effort to organise a conference in Annaba.
The National Tourism Office has recently published a booklet entitled "Augustine the Algerian," presenting various Augustinian sites and itineraries.
Yet what struck me most when I arrived in Hippo a few days ago was an Algerian cheese called Saint Augustine. Augustine now joins Algerians at their dinner table. The front of the package is a picture of the bishop, apparently dressed as a friar, eating his cheese.
Algerians are hungry and thirsty for peace, for true harmony, for true openness to the outside world.
The majority are Muslims, and during a period of terrorism paid a high price for their profound desire not to close themselves in a fundamentalist form of Islam.
They want to contribute to building a more fraternal humanity, one where all people are treated as persons and not as goods to be sold or exploited.
They are eager for true values and are becoming aware that Augustine, their big brother, the son of Thagaste and leader of the people of Hippo, through his work and teaching, may be also a beacon to illuminate their minds and set their hearts aflame.
To view images of Augustinian places in Algeria in this web site, select Algeria after you click here.