Christians in Algeria request prayer after the closure of yet another church, in the Kabylie province of Bejaia. The church was sealed by authorities on 16 October. Police officers acted upon a closure order issued by the head of the province.
The congregation is in Azaghar, a village near Akbou, about 180 km south-east of Algiers. It has about 300 members and has been active for more than five years. It is a member of the EPA (Église Protestante d’Algérie), the legally recognised umbrella of Protestant churches in Algeria.
Since November 2017 most EPA-affiliated churches have been visited by so-called “building-safety committees.” These committees have not only inspected buildings’ suitability to host meetings, but have also been asking about licenses required by a 2006 ordinance regulating non-Muslim worship. However, the government has yet to issue any licence for a church building under this regulation.
Several churches have since received written orders to cease all activities. A number were closed by authorities because they did not have a license, most recently in July 2018. Three of those closed churches have since been allowed to re-open.
The congregation in Azaghar was visited by a “committee” in December 2017. In February 2018 the church received a letter, citing non compliance with safety regulations (lack of emergency exits and fire extinguishers). The church fixed these issues .
However, the letter also mentioned violations of regulations regarding foreign visitors and that the permitted use of the building was for poultry production. The church was ordered to close within two weeks.
Algerian Christians urge us to pray that:
- the church leaders and EPA leaders would know the Lord’s peace, wisdom and guidance in the face of the growing pressures
- the authorities will end their systematic campaign to close churches and limit Christians’ freedom to worship
- churches ordered to close would soon be permitted to re-open, and that no further action will be taken against those churches still under investigation
- the regulations governing non-Muslim worship to be amended and justly implemented, so that Christians will be able to worship freely
- those responsible for the closure orders to know the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the forgiveness and new life offered by Jesus