Churches are closed in Algeria

By May 31, 2011

Algeria (MNN) — It appears Christians in Algeria may be seeing more oppression.

Mustapha Krim, president of the EPA (Protestant Church of Algeria), was requested to come to the police station in Bejaia. At the police station he was informed about the decision of the governor of the wilaya (province) of Bejaia that "all buildings designated for the practice of religious worship — other than Muslim — will be permanently closed down." This notification was totally unexpected.

Mustapha Krim shares with Open Doors: "We have to prepare ourselves for this situation."

The "Ministerial Directive," as the top of the statement reads, speaks about all the churches in Algeria. But Mustapha Krim is especially concerned about the seven churches and several house groups in the province of Bejaia. The statement refers to Ordinance 06-03, the religious law that was passed in March 2006 restricting non-Muslim worship.

Mustapha Krim informed Open Doors that he went to Algeria's capital of Algiers, together with other leaders of the EPA, to have a meeting with clerks of the Minister of Religious affairs on Monday.
During the conversation, the employees of religious affairs contacted the Ministry of Interior by phone to get more clarification. But to Krim's surprise, the clerks of the Ministry of Interior did not know anything about the statement of closing down church buildings.

An Open Doors spokesperson says, "It is uncertain what consequences this will have for other churches in the country. The statement reads ‘all parts of the country,' but I doubt the governor of this province can speak for other provinces as well."

In an e-mail on Tuesday, Algerian believers asked Christians from all over the world to pray and fast about this situation, for the church leaders and the churches. The e-mail further says that despite the notification, "our brothers and sisters will maintain their times of worship."

Algeria is ranked No. 22 on the Open Doors 2011 World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians. Approximately 97% of the country is Islamic with a small minority of Christians. Missionary groups are permitted to conduct humanitarian activities without government interference as long as they are discreet and do not evangelize. At least two dozen Protestant churches have been closed in the past, and over a dozen Christians have been arrested for evangelizing.

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