Algerian Christians ask for continued prayer in the face of increasing pressure by the government on the Church and Christians.
Since November 2017, a committee of officials has been conducting church inspections. Although the declared purpose of inspections is to test compliance with safety regulations, the officials have also scrutinised licence arrangements. To date, seven churches have been ordered to close or cease all activities. Most recently, two Protestant churches were sealed by the Algerian authorities on 26 May 2018. Both churches are in the Kabylie area, where most of Algeria’s Christians are found.
The first church, in Ait-Mellikeche in the province of Bejaia, has been functioning since 2005. It is affiliated with the Protestant Church of Algeria, l’Église Protestante d’Algérie (EPA). The closure order, issued by the Governor of Bejaia, mentioned non-suitability of the building but also stated that “worship in this place is a violation of the 2006-03 ordinance, which organises the worship of non-Muslims, specially article 5 and 7.” The order did not specify a timeframe for the church to ensure compliance. An accompanying letter from the Governor noted that the closure was the result of the findings of the: “Committee to Inspect Places of Protestant Religious Worship,” indicating that the Committee’s sole focus is Protestant churches.
The second closed church is in the town of Maatkas. The church is not yet affiliated with the EPA but has been functioning for years. In April 2016, this church received an order to cease its activities, based on non-compliance with the 2006 ordinance.
The 2006 ordinance stipulates that all churches must obtain permission from a national committee. In practice, this committee never meets – so no church application has been considered or approved. Because of this impasse, protestant churches alert the legally-recognised EPA, to which many are affiliated, and inform the relevant local authorities when renting premises to be used for worship. Of the seven churches so far closed, four are affiliated with the EPA. Several other churches have also been asked to cease all activities.
Please pray that:
- Algerian Christians will know the Lord’s peace, wisdom and guidance in the face of growing pressures
- church leaders will have discernment in all dealings with the authorities
- the authorities will end the systematic campaign to close churches and limit Christians’ freedom to worship
- churches ordered to close would soon be permitted to reopen, and that no further action will be taken against those churches still under investigation
- the regulations governing non-Muslim worship would be amended and justly implemented, so that Christians will be able to worship freely
- those responsible for the closure orders would know the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the forgiveness and new life offered by Jesus