Brief: Religious Freedom in Algeria
Algeria sits on the brink of change as it comes out from twenty years under the reign of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. The new administration has the rare opportunity to address the deep, underlying issues that have plagued Algeria for decades and held it back from progressing in the area of human rights and religious freedom. Whether it will take that opportunity remains to be seen, but one thing is clear—now is the time for the international community to pressure Algeria to protect the rights of its vulnerable Christian minority.
The Algerian church is the second-largest Christian community in Northern Africa, and it faces a type of government-sponsored persecution that is currently unparalleled in the region. Like most countries in this part of the world, Algeria is officially Islamic. Indeed, the President’s oath of office requires him to “glorify the Islamic religion.” Still, Algeria’s Constitution contains provisions which guarantee religious freedom, although these protections have frequently been ignored in the creation of subsequent legislation and in government practice.
Christianity has existed in Algeria for centuries and is mostly tolerated by the broader society. However, the government views Christianity as a danger to the Algerian Islamic identity and is making every attempt to regulate the church into non-existence. Estimates of the Christian population range from 20,000 to 200,000. Protestants make up the fastest-growing Christian population in Algeria. The Evangelical Protestant Association (EPA), a government-approved organization of churches, consists of 45 churches spread across the country’s many ethnic and tribal identities. The largest single church consisted of approximately 1,000 members before it was shut down by authorities in late 2019.