ICC Note: Algerian authorities are denying that they have discriminated against Christians by closing churches. Officials point to a religious freedom clause in the constitution and a law passed which set the standards of Christian worship. However, the authorities have failed to respond to applications by churches seeking legalization.
03/13/2018 Algeria (World Watch Monitor) – The Algerian Minister of Religious Affairs has denied discriminating against the country’s Christian minority by ordering the closure of several churches in recent months.
The latest church closures took place last week, as two churches were sealed by police in the north-western city of Oran. A week beforehand, two more churches received a notification to close in the eastern city of Tizi Ouzou, while in November another church was closed down in Aïn Turk, 15km from Oran.
Mohamed Aissa told Ennahar TV that the churches “did not meet the standards required of a place of worship”.
“The institutions that were closed have been closed down because they were built without complying with the regulations of the Republic,” he said, adding that if a building lacks emergency exits, it must be closed, “even if it is a mosque”.
“When a place of worship is built without any notice showing it’s a place of worship, which may enable the state to protect it, this place must be closed,” he added.
In response, a spokesperson from the Protestant Church of Algeria (known as EPA, its French acronym), told World Watch Monitor “the government is simply implementing the 2006 law of regulating non-Muslim worship. This law is a Sword of Damocles suspended above the churches. It is the legal instrument that the government uses to silence the Church. The purpose of this law is precisely to curb the activities of churches and to control them”.
“The content of this law focuses on the coercive side, conviction and sanction. This 2006 law was not aimed at helping Christian communities to comply with standards or to regularise themselves,” added the spokesperson, who did not wish to be named.
The minister stressed that Algeria’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion. However he also said that the state is responsible for the religious practice of non-Muslims.
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