Algerian authorities’ church building closure campaign escalates after peaceful protest
Algerian authorities have escalated church closures with three churches sealed on 15 October – just days after the Algerian Protestant Church Association (EPA) on 9 October held a peaceful protest outside the provincial government offices.
Church leaders and Christians from across the country gathered for the public demonstration, an unusual event for Christians in Algeria, with hand painted protest banners in French and Arabic asking for unfair church sealing to end. Churches pastored by EPA leaders who took part in the protest were among the three ordered to be sealed later that same day.
The authorities moved in to forcibly evict worshippers from the Full Gospel Church in the city of Tizi Ouzou on 15 October, which is pastored by the EPA’s president. Around 700 church members, plus 300 other Christians who also used the building, have been left without a place of worship.
The second largest Protestant church in the country, the Source of Life Church in Makouda, was also sealed. The EPA secretary pastors a congregation of 500 people at the church, which is located around 15 miles outside the city. The third church to be closed was Light Church, also in Tizi Ouzou, which has around 100 members.
A total of least eleven churches have been closed since the beginning of 2018 including two churches shut down within days of each other in the last week of September. The congregations of these Protestant churches are mainly comprised of converts from Islam and their children.
According to the 2006 ordinance, the National Commission for Non-Muslim Worship is in charge of issuing permits for approving the church buildings, but so far, no permit has been issued. This leaves the churches legally vulnerable to closure by authorities.
Committees of officials started regularly visiting churches in late 2017, with the declared aim of checking safety, but they also asked about permits to operate as churches.