Algerian Christians were kicked out of their churches by police just days after they protested the government’s crackdown on houses of worship. Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), an organization that monitors persecution, reports that 3 Algerian churches were shut down last month. That makes 8 churches shut down in Algeria over the past 12 months. Church closures are carried out on the basis of a 2006 law that requires all non-Islamic places of worship to be authorized by a national government agency. Critics say that the National Commission for Non-Muslim Worship, does not actually meet and therefore applications to build new churches are not considered.
Police have shut down The Light Church in the city of Tizi Ouzou in north-central Algeria, the Protestant Church of the Full Gospel in Tizi Ouzou and Source of Life Church in the Tizi Ouzou suburb of Makouda. Salah Chalah, who heads the Protestant umbrella of Churches, said that he received an order by the Tizi Ouzou governor calling for the closing of the Protestant Church of the Full Gospel. Chalah contends that the governor’s order to seal the church shut came in retaliation for a sit-in protesting church closures held at the Bejaia Province headquarters. He said the order for the church’s closure was dated the same day the Christian sit-in was held.
The Source of Life church’s pastor, Nour Eddein Bin Zeid, was also issued a police summons on the same day the church was shut down. The National Commission for Non-Muslim Worship inspected all Christian places of worship in Tizi Ouzou in January 2018. After that, several churches were ordered to cease activities because they were considered illegal even though some of the churches had existed for years. “We are deeply concerned by the closure of the Churches,” CSW Chief Executive Merwyn Thomas said. “The closures violate the Algerian Constitution which guarantees free worship for all citizens.”
CSW called on Algerian authorities to allow the churches to reopen and for Algeria to repeal the 2006 law, which criminalizes freedom of religion or belief,” Thomas added. Most churches in Algeria are affiliated with the Protestant Churches of Algeria (EPA) due to the fact that the denomination was once legal in Algeria before the passage of the 2006 law requiring the government commission’s approval to build a new church. But pastor Youssef Ourahmane, vice president of the EPA, said that the government is trying to close as many churches as possible. Christians in Algeria comprise less than 1% of the country’s population.
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