Algeria: Christians Face Ongoing Battle To Legalize Churches
By Aidan Clay, ICC – “Christians approaching a Protestant worship service near Freha, Algeria last week were told to return home by an armed mob of disgruntled neighbors. The mob had assembled outside the service and demanded the church’s immediate closure. The congregation, which meets in an unregistered house-church, is the latest group of Christians to be threatened and harassed because of their inability to quickly obtain legal status.
On July 20, a group armed with guns and knives prevented Christians affiliated with the Protestant Church of Algeria (EPA) from entering a house where services were being held in the village of El Majene, near Freha in northern Algeria. The mob accused the church’s 80 members of meeting ‘illegally’ and launched a petition demanding the church’s immediate closure, the Algerian daily La Dépêche de Kabylie reported.
Despite permission given by the Ministry of Interior in July 2011 stating that all EPA churches are allowed to officially register their congregations, many EPA churches, including the church in El Majene, have not yet been approved. Until the registration is processed, Protestant churches are considered illegal and often face harassment by neighbors and local authorities.
‘It’s possible that more churches will be closed because the registration process takes so long,’ an EPA spokesman told International Christian Concern (ICC). ‘Without legal status, neighbors will continue to pressure the church and force Christians to leave. But, if churches have government authorization, then there will not be as many problems.’
Similar demands to close Christian worship services have threatened EPA churches before. ‘The same thing occurred in Tizi Ouzou when several churches were ordered to close under threats that legal action would be taken against the leaders,’ said a Protestant church leader in Tizi Ouzou. ‘Our church also received this order in 2008, but because we resisted, the church continues to this day.’
Meanwhile, a controversial law introduced in 2006 that regulates non-Muslim worship continues to hinder the freedoms of religious minorities. Ordinance 06-03 prohibits Christians from holding services without government authorization and outlaws religious practices that conflict with the government’s interpretation of Islamic law.” Read more.