Authorities Force Church Closures

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The church of Ait-Mellikeche - World Watch Monitor - www.worldwatchmonitor.org
The church of Ait-Mellikeche.
Photo: World Watch Monitor

Several churches throughout Algeria have been closed by authorities in recent months, resulting in calls to the government for equal treatment for Protestant Christians. Since November, six churches associated with the l'Eglise Protestante d'Algérie (EPA) have been closed, even though the EPA was officially recognized by the government since 1974. However, in 2012, the government required re-registration and has, to date, not renewed that legal status.

Places of worship for non-Muslims are required to be built for the purpose of worship only, but they require approval. Requests for approval have generally been ignored, resulting in many churches meeting in rented homes or apartments. The authorities have been closing these churches under the guise of safety concerns, although human rights observers view the action as a coordinated campaign against churches.

Along with the closures, individual Christians and pastors have also faced harassment and fines for "proselytising." In one recent case, a verdict against Noureddine Belabbes was upheld on May 16th. Having been charged for transporting Bibles, he faces a fine of $1,100 CAN, plus legal expenses.

Pray that the Christians in Algeria will stand firm despite ongoing pressure from the forces around them. May God speak to the hearts of the government officials so that necessary approval will be given, allowing these believers to practise their faith in freedom and peace. Also pray for Noureddine and others who are facing prosecution because of their desire to reach out with the Gospel.

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