A church in Algeria’s north-western town of Aïn Turk has been closed down by local authorities. The church, affiliated to the Protestant Church of Algeria (known as EPA, its French acronym), was sealed off by police on 9 November.
Authorities claimed the church had been used to ‘illegally print Gospels and publications intended for evangelism’.
The police notification also stated that the church didn’t have state approval. But the president of the EPA, Rev Mahmoud Haddad, denied any wrongdoing, saying the justifications for closing the church were ‘unfounded’.
“Firstly, this community is indeed affiliated to the Protestant Church of Algeria, which has been officially recognised by the government since 1974 and is accredited with both the Ministry of the Interior and the local government,” he said. “Also there is no printing activity of Gospels or Christian publications inside these premises.”
Anomalies and falsehoods
He pointed to several 'anomalies and falsehoods' in the notification, which stated that the church of Aïn Turk belonged to a man named 'Rachid', who serves there as a pastor.
“This is not the case,” said Rev. Haddad, who added that the accusations were 'unjust and false'.
Youssef, a board member at Aïn Turk church, added: “I am very saddened by this injustice and persecution we are facing in Algeria. The notification of the Prefect is based on false motives.”
Intimidation and harrassment
Algeria is number 36 on the Open Doors World Watch List. Christians from a Muslim background face enormous pressure from their families to recant their faith. The law makes it impossible for most churches to meet publicly. In addition, Islamist movements such as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) are increasingly making their presence felt. Moreover, EPA international partners planning to visit churches in Algeria have seen their visa application denied.
A new Constitution, passed in February 2016, established freedom of religious worship. Article 36 states that freedom of religious worship is guaranteed in compliance with the law. But in practice, a number of churches were ordered to cease all religious activities on the grounds that they were in breach of a 2006 law which regulates non-Muslim worship.
In cooperation with local partners and churches, Open Doors supports the church in Algeria through training, literature distribution, socio-economic development projects and advocacy support.
- That the government will be more open towards Christians and will acknowledge their rights as lawful citizens
- That the church in Aïn Turk will be reopened.
- For protection for Christians who seek to live out their faith in the country.