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Armed Mob Forces Church to Close in Northern Algeria

Washington, D.C. (July 26, 2012) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that an armed mob prevented Christians from attending a Protestant worship service in northern Algeria on Friday and demanded the church’s immediate closure. Despite government approval to officially register Protestant churches, congregations throughout the country continue to be threatened and harassed because of their inability to quickly obtain legal status.

On July 20, Christians affiliated with the Protestant Church of Algeria (EPA) were blocked from entering a house where services were being held by a group of disgruntled neighbors in the village of El Majene, near Freha in northern Algeria. The mob, armed with guns and knives, accused the church’s 80 members of meeting “illegally” and launched a petition demanding the church’s immediate closure, the Algerian daily La Dépêche de Kabylie reported.

Despite permission given by the Ministry of Interior in July 2011 stating that all EPA churches are allowed to officially register their congregations, many EPA churches, including the church in El Majene, have not yet been approved. Until the registration is processed, which is known to take years, Protestant churches are considered illegal and often face harassment by neighbors and local authorities.

It’s possible that more churches will be closed because the registration process takes so long,” a spokesman of the EPA in Tizi Ouzou told ICC. “Without legal status, neighbors will continue to pressure the church and force Christians to leave. But, if churches have government authorization, than there will not be as many problems.”

Aidan Clay, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “Although EPA churches have been permitted to register their congregations, the process is arduous and often accompanied by long delays. Yet, the security of Algeria’s churches depends on their ability to register. Until they are granted legal status, worshippers will continue to be harassed and discriminated against by angry mobs and local authorities. It has been more than a year since the Ministry of Interior granted EPA churches approval to register. No justification can be given as to why some EPA churches have still not received official status. We urge the Algerian government to act quickly by legalizing the status of all EPA churches and by overturning repressive legislation, such as Ordinance 06-03, that greatly restricts the worship of Christians and other religious minorities in the country.”

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