Algerian Christians request prayer following several incidents in which churches and individual Christians have faced increased restrictions, raising concerns that these pressures signal a coordinated campaign of intensified action against churches by the governing authorities.
Three believers were arrested in Chlef, 200 km north-west of Algiers, during the third week of December. They were visiting from Tizi Ouzou and had arranged to meet a contact at a café. Police entered the café, found they were in possession of Christian literature, and took them to the police station where they were investigated at length by the national gendarmerie. A local newspaper, known for its hostility to Christians, described the incident as a ‘foiled evangelism attempt’, falsely accusing the Christians of working under the cover of humanitarian activities and of alluring young Muslims to convert by means of financial and travel inducements. The three believers were released but may face charges of proselytism.
During the same week, two churches in the province of Bejaia, in the Kabylie region, were visited by a committee of officials from the municipality, the ministry of religious affairs, the fire brigade, the national gendarmerie and the intelligence department. The churches were informed that the visits were to check compliance with safety regulations. The two buildings host meetings of eight church congregations in Bejia. The result of the inspection is pending.
In Ouargla in the south of Algeria, another church received an order from the provincial Governor to cease all religious activities, following a buildings inspection on 14th December. Leaders were accused of lacking authorization to use the building as a place of worship, and of failing to comply with safety requirements. They were advised to seek permission from the ministry of religious affairs, and that worship activities can only recommence three months after obtaining such permission. The church has been active for ten years.
A church in Ain el-Turk near Oran, and a Christian-owned bookshop were forcibly closed in November. In addition, a church training centre in Boudjemaa, in the Kabylie region, was visited by the police – activities have been stopped and the leaders are to be investigated next month.
The affected churches are all affiliated to the legally recognised Protestant Church of Algeria (l’Église Protestante d’Algérie). The EPA questions the motives behind the inspection visits, and believes that the accusations leading to the church closures have been unfounded.
Algerian Christians ask us to pray with them in these challenging times:
a. that the three believers briefly detained in Chlef will know the peace of Jesus, the wisdom of the Father and the guidance of the Holy Spirit in dealing with this situation
b. that they will not face further charges
c. that the authorities will cease the systematic campaign to close churches and limit the freedom of Christian to worship.
d. that all churches which were ordered to close would soon be reopened, that no legal action will be taken against the churches still under investigation
e. that the regulations governing non-Muslim worship will be amended and justly implemented, so that Christians will be able to worship freely
f. that those responsible for the closure orders will know the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the forgiveness and new life offered by Jesus