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Christian leaders call for freedom of worship in Algeria after another church is closed


19 August 2019

Christian leaders called on the authorities in Algeria to guarantee freedom of worship following the closure on 6 August of a second church in Boudjima city, Tizi Ouzou province.

Officials sealed the church on the instructions of the provincial governor, Mohamed Djemaâ. It was also on his orders that another church in the town was sealed on 27 May.

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The World Evangelical Alliance called for the churches to be reopened and said it “deeply regretted” the latest action, which brought the number of forced church closures in Algeria to at least five since the beginning of 2018. “Many more churches are threatened with closure, amid denial of formal registration and recognition by authorities,” it added.

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, obtained from the National Commission for Non-Muslim Worship. However, despite numerous requests from some churches it has been reported that the commission has never issued a permit.

Concerns remain high in Algeria that Islamist extremists will attempt to fill the political vacuum left by the departure of 82-year-old President Abdelaziz Bouteflika on 2 April. A presidential election was set for 4 July but postponed on 2 June. Interim President Abdelkader Bensalah says he will continue until elections are held.