Algerian Authorities Close More Churches as State Increases Pressure on Christians

ICC Note: Algerian police have sealed off two more churches, saying they did not have state approval. Like other churches that have been recently closed, the churches were told the visits were to check compliance with safety regulations. Both churches are affiliated with the Protestant Church of Algeria (EPA), which is officially recognized by the authorities. The EPA has called for a week of prayer and fasting due to the increasing pressure facing Christians.  

03/02/2018 Algeria (The Express) –  Local authorities in Algeria’s north-western city of Oran have closed two more churches amidst growing pressure on Christians in the Maghreb country.

The two churches – L’Oratoire (The Oratory) in Oran’s city centre, and a village church in Layayda (about 40km from Oran) – were sealed off by police on Tuesday, 27 February.

The police notification stated that the churches didn’t have state approval. The decision is not the first of its kind in Oran.

On 9 November 2017, another church in the town of Aïn Turk (15km from Oran) was also closed. The authorities claimed the church had been used to “illegally print Gospels and publications intended for evangelism”.

Since December, 25 out of the 45 churches affiliated to the main Protestant Church body in Algeria – the Protestant Church of Algeria (known as EPA, its French acronym) – have been visited by a committee of officials from the Ministry of Religious Affairs, national gendarmerie, intelligence department and fire brigade.

The churches were informed that the visits were aimed at checking compliance with safety regulations, and they were given three months’ notice.

They were also advised to seek permission from the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

On 21 February two churches (among the 25 which received notifications) in the city of Tizi Ouzou, in the eastern province of Kabylie, were asked “to cease all religious activities immediately”.

EPA leaders called the closures “unjustifiable”. They noted that all the affected churches are affiliated with the EPA, which has been officially recognised by the government since 1974.

On Saturday 24 February the EPA called for a week of prayer and fasting for the nation. In light of the increasing pressure, the World Evangelical Alliance has also called on the Algerian government “to ensure that the religious freedom of Christians is safeguarded in accordance with international law”.

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