Algeria shuts down another Christian church that's been waiting years for permit

Algeria Church
(Photo: Reuters/Zohra Bensemra)

Algerian authorities have shut down yet another Christian church and its Bible school following the closure of other churches this year. 

Boudjima Church was sealed shut by authorities in the Tizi Ouzou province late last month, according to the Christian persecution watchdog website Morning Star News.

The church’s pastor, Youcef Ourahmane, told the outlet that the government cited a law that requires authorization for non-Muslim places of worship.

Ourahmane, along with officials from the Protestant Church of Algeria (EPA), met with military officials on May 22 and were informed of an “order of execution” to close the church and school.

Ourahmane explained that a 2006 ordinance stipulates that non-Muslim churches are required to get permission from a national committee to be registered.

Although Ourahmane said he submitted an application for a permit, the application has been left unattended. He contended that the commission in charge approving such requests has never even met and that no applications have been approved or even considered.

The Christian aid agency Barnabus Fund reports that Boudjima Church has been involved in a years-long legal battle with authorities and secured a court victory in January that should have allowed the church to open.

“I am sad to have to face this injustice,” Pastor Ourahmane was quoted as saying. “We prayed for those authorities who are persecuting us, as our Lord Jesus Christ commanded. And in spite of all this, we are convinced that God is sovereign and is in control of this situation and all circumstances.”

According to Middle East Concern, the Catholic Church and the EPA, a network of churches throughout the country, are officially recognized entities.

However, the watchdog notes that “registration requirements have become more stringent since the EPA was first registered in the 1970s.”

MEC reports that a 2012 law required religious associations to be present in 12 Algerian states in order to be recognized. Nonetheless, authorities have “delayed providing  approvals required under the law.”

In March, it was reported that the Algerian government shut down a number of churches in the provinces of Oran, Tizi Ouzou and Aïn Turk in the previous weeks and months. The closures had been described as “a new wave of persecution.”

Mohamed Aissa, the Algerian Minister of Religious Affairs, claimed at the time that the churches were shut down because they "did not meet the standards required of a place of worship.”

As for Boudjima Church, which has been harassed by authorities since 2017, the church building was visited by the Tizi Ouzou head of security on April 28 who reportedly told those occupying the building to leave it.

Morning Star News notes that “building-safety committees” have made visits to EPA-affiliated churches since 2017.

Algeria ranks as the 22nd worst nation in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA’s 2019 World Watch List.

In addition to church closures, Open Doors notes that Christians — especially Christian converts — face a tremendous amount of societal and familial persecution. Another source of persecution comes from the influence of radical Muslim groups in the country.

“Restrictive laws regulating non-Muslim worship, banning conversion and prohibiting blasphemy put Christians at extreme risk,” an Open Doors factsheet on Algeria reads.

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