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Christians Still Waiting for Restrictive Ordinance to be Overturned

Washington, D.C. (September 12, 2011) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that the Protestant Church of Algeria (EPA) was granted government approval in July to officially register congregations throughout the country. Algerian Christians view the decision as a positive step toward repealing a law that restricts Christian worship.

On July 18, Algeria’s Ministry of Interior presented documents of legalization to the EPA which will enable them to apply for official registration. Though the EPA was first recognized by the Algerian government in 1974, their position was overturned in December 1990 when law 90-31 was introduced and required religious associations to update their registration status. The recent legalization of the EPA marks the first time their status has been renewed in the past twenty years.

Prior to receiving approval, twenty-seven Protestant churches throughout the country were considered illegal by the government for conducting worship services in unregistered homes and buildings. Just three months earlier, the local governor and the police commissioner in the province of Béjaia ordered seven EPA churches to close for “exercising religious worship other than Islam without authorization.” The decision was overturned and opened the door for discussions concerning the EPA’s need for government recognition.

This is good news for the Protestant Church of Algeria. We are pleased with the promise made by the Minister of the Interior,” EPA President Mustapha Krim told Algérie Plus. “We are delighted that they took the time to understand our situation and finally the Minister of Interior and local government kept their word after… we expressed our concern over the closure of our seven churches in the wilaya (or administrative division) of Béjaia.”

The Algerian authority’s decision will allow us to exercise our faith legally and freely,” said EPA secretary Nouredine B.

The registration process for each Protestant congregation is expected to be slow, possibly taking as long as one to two years. Additionally, Ordinance 06-03, which was introduced in 2006 to regulate the worship of non-Muslims by requiring government permission to hold services, remains in place. Unless the ordinance is repealed, the EPA expects to face further hindrances throughout the registration process.

We are continuing efforts to repeal, or at least revise, the 2006 law,” Krim told ICC. “We expect the new legislation granted to the EPA to be favorable to our cause.”

Aidan Clay, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “We welcome the news that Protestant churches in Algeria, once registered, will be able to worship freely and openly without being harassed or discriminated against. While this is a positive step forward, Algerian Christians’ battle for religious freedom is far from being won. We urge the Algerian government to safeguard Article 36 of the Constitution, which states that freedom of creed is inviolable, by overturning the repressive legislation introduced in 2006 which greatly restricts the worship of Christians and other religious minorities in the country. We hope Algeria will continue to demonstrate their concern for religious freedom by instituting new reforms that give equal rights to all Algerian citizens, whether Christian or Muslim.”