Algeria (MNN) — Recently, Algeria’s government shut down yet another church. On January 20, officials ordered the closure of a church in Ain Turk. More details here.
According to Middle East Concern, 19 churches have been closed in the past two years; at least 13 of the church buildings were sealed shut. Read our coverage here. “The government tries to limit the growth of the church because the Protestant church in Algeria has been growing quite significantly over the last few decades and continues to grow,” MEC’s Daniel Hoffman says.
For example, “there is much less pressure on the Catholic church because the Catholic church is not growing,” he adds.
What’s going on in Algeria?
Algeria’s constitution establishes Islam as the national religion. A 2006 law makes it extremely difficult for non-Muslim religious groups to function. More about that here.
Under the 2006 law, Christians have to get a license from a special national committee in order to use a building for church purposes. “But, the committee has never met, and therefore has never issued a single license,” Hoffman explains.
“Now, the government is saying these churches are illegal because they’re operating without the proper license [but]… they make it impossible for churches to obtain this license.”
Furthermore, the government’s campaign against believers has seemingly increased since 2017, and “there’s been no solution to the ongoing problems of church closures,” Hoffman notes. Global persecution watchdog Open Doors seemingly concurs:
Algeria has seen a rise in every persecution category over the last year, which is why it’s risen five spots on the 2020 World Watch List. The most visible example of persecution in 2019 was the seemingly systemic closure of Protestant churches.
Ministry doesn’t stop when believers lose their building. “Normally, the church then starts to meet in small groups in people’s houses – which, technically, is also illegal,” Hoffman says.
“Sometimes… the church [members] just meet outside the church building but still on the land that the church was built on. But, again, there have been instances where the government tried to stop that, either by the police showing up or by threatening the [land owner] with legal action if he doesn’t stop this from happening.”
How can I help?
Visit MEC’s website to learn more about persecution in Algeria. Then, share this story with your social network using the buttons at the bottom of this page.
“I think Algerian Christian leaders are a little bit worried that they are disappearing from people’s radar and, when nobody’s watching, that the government will continue their activities again,” Hoffman says.
“We can find ways of making sure people stay connected with the story and watch what is happening with the Christians in Algeria.”
Most importantly, pray. “Pray for an end to this campaign by the authorities, and for the churches to remain strong in the midst of it,” Hoffman requests.
Pray for wisdom for church leaders. Pray that they will know how to respond and react to different activities. Ask the Lord to guide government officials. Pray their actions and decisions will further God’s purposes instead of hindering them.
Header image is a representative photo courtesy of USCIRF.