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Algerian authorities seal village church over “health and safety”

13 November 2018

Authorities in the village of Azaghar, around 110 miles south-east of Algiers, sealed a church building on 16 October after falsely claiming that it failed to comply with health and safety regulations.

The building was sealed despite the 300-strong congregation responding to an earlier request to install fire exits and fire extinguishers. The church has a powerful ministry to local Muslims.

In 2006, the Algerian government introduced a law requiring registration of premises used for Christian worship; pictured is a historic church in Algiers
CC BY-SA 3.0 by Xiaotong Gao

Non-Muslim religious groups in Algeria are required to be registered to conduct services and can only do so in approved locations. In practice, authorities have typically allowed churches registered with official religious organisations and even non-registered Christian groups to meet without needing specific permission. However, a number of churches have been shut down since the start of 2018, either for alleged breaches of health and safety, or because authorities claim they are not properly registered.

The church in Azaghar is thought to be the fourth Christian place of worship shut down in 2018. Two churches closed in Oran district in the north-west of the country earlier this year, but were later permitted to reopen.