Algeria is 99% Muslim with a small but growing Christian population, mainly converts from Islam and their children, estimated at up to 90,000. Many Algerian converts are Berbers, indigenous to North Africa, but an ethnic minority in this Arab-majority country. Conversion from Islam is
not a criminal offence, but those
who evangelise Muslims risk a five-year jail sentence.
The constitution declares Islam the state religion but adds that “freedom of conscience and freedom of opinion is inviolable”. A draft revised constitution, which was due to be voted on in November 2020, reduces this to just “freedom of opinion is inviolable”.
Freedom of worship is also protected constitutionally. This has been amended in the draft revised constitution to “freedom to exercise worship”, which is protected only if exercised in accordance with the law. But other laws restrict its practice for non-Muslims. For example, according to a 2006 ordinance, the National Commission for Non-Muslim Worship grants permits for churches but, so far, no permits have been issued, despite repeated requests by churches.
At least eleven churches have been shut by the authorities since the beginning of 2018. Three, whose congregations total 1,600, were forcibly closed on one day in October 2019.
One of these three, the Source of Life Church in Makouda, appealed the closure, claiming the governor was not authorised to sign closure orders. However, an administrative court in August 2020 recognised the governor’s authority to close the church under the 2006 ordinance. Most of the other closed churches have filed similar cases with the administrative courts.
Lift up Christians in Algeria and ask that they remain strong, despite setbacks. Pray that the court’s ruling about the Source of Life Church will not set a precedent for other similar cases and instead that permission will be granted to reopen sealed churches. Ask that the authorities will start the process of granting permits for church buildings, so that they are no longer vulnerable to being forcibly closed.
The above content can also be found in the Praying for the Persecuted Church (2021-2022) booklet
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