Algeria Closing Protestant Church In Crackdown

By BosNewsLife Africa Service

ALGIERS, ALGERIA (BosNewsLife)-- Several Protestant Christians in northwestern Nigeria were without a place to worship Sunday, December 3, after authorities closed their church as part of a crackdown on evangelism, BosNewsLife learned.

Security forces sealed off the building of the Protestant Church of Algeria congregation (EPA) in the northwestern town of Aïn Turk, some 15 kilometers (9 miles) outside Oran city, Christians said.

Authorities in Oran reportedly claimed that the building was used to "illegally print Gospels and publications intended for evangelism." A police notification also indicated that the church didn't have state approval.

In a statement, the president of EPA churches, Reverend Mahmoud Haddad, called the reasons for closing the church "unfounded."

The November 9 crackdown came as a setback for Algeria's Christians. Representatives had expected positive changes after the EPA president discussed religious rights in Algeria at a May session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.

NEW CONSTITUTION

Algeria's new Constitution, passed in February 2016, guarantees religious worship. But activists say that several churches were ordered to cease "religious activities" for allegedly breaching legislation regulating non-Muslim worship.

The law, introduced in 2006, effectively prohibits most public practices a faith other than Islam. This affects most Christian places of worship, except for Catholic churches and one Protestant church, according to advocacy groups familiar with the situation.

Activists also report that EPA's international partners, who were planning to visit churches in Algeria, had their visa applications denied.

Also, Islamist movements such as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) are increasingly active, Christians said.

Christians have urged prayers that "this congregation of believers will not succumb to fear or intimidation" and "be further compelled to share the truth of God's Word."

PERSECUTION WATCHED

Algeria remains constant on the annual persecution World Watch List of advocacy group Open Doors. It currently ranks 36 among 50 countries where Christians reportedly face the worst persecution.

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has come under pressure to improve Algeria's reported human rights record.

He has been ruling the North African nation since 1999 and gained his fourth term of office in the 2014 elections, despite doing no personal campaigning and rarely appearing in public after suffering a stroke in 2013.

Christians comprise less than one percent of Algeria's mainly Muslim population of roughly 41 million people, according to several estimates.

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