Algeria (MNN) — Algeria is
closing down dozens of churches. The
government has ordered the closure of 26 Algerian churches since November 2007–roughly half of the existing fellowships. If the trend continues, the church will be
non-existent by the end of 2008.
Open Doors' Advocacy coordinator
Lindsay Vessey says, "This was
actually caused by an ordinance that was passed in 2006. This ordinance,
basically, was making it more difficult for churches to worship. It restricts where they can worship and also
tries to prevent Christians from proselytizing or evangelizing."
According to Compass Direct, the law,
which restricts the worship for non-Muslims, was not enforced until this year. Algeria's official state religion is Islam,
and religious minorities are seen as a threat to the government's internal
affairs. Anyone found engaged in
proselytism or evangelism faces jail or a hefty fine.
In addition to church closures,
Protestants have been arrested in western Algeria as they travel between cities
or exit religious meetings, and Catholics have been prevented from regular
ministry activities outside their church walls.
Further, the crackdown coincided
with a negative media campaign being carried out in Arabic newspapers. Christianity has been compared to terrorism,
and Muslim schools and mosques have been encouraged to continue the attack that
threatens to wipe out the Christian community in Algeria. The negative
publicity has further heightened tensions between Christians and Muslims.
In response, Open Doors has
launched an awareness and advocacy campaign. "We're asking our supporters to go to our website and to send an
email directly to the Algerian ambassador from our website, asking him to stop
the church closures and to re-open those churches that have already been
This is one way for Christians to
stand in solidarity with the believers in Algeria. http://members.opendoorsusa.org/algeria2008.
Vessey says what's happening in
the crackdown is actually strengthening believers. "This is really refining the
church. They're finding out now who are
those people who are committed to the Gospel, and those who aren't committed are
falling away. Those who are [committed] are becoming stronger in their