Algerian Authorities Close Two of the Country’s Largest Churches
10/15/2019 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that authorities in Algeria have ordered the closure of two of the largest churches in the nation. Both churches are linked to l’Eglise Protestante d’Algerie (EPA), an organization formed in 1974 to collectively represent Algerian Christians before the government.
According to a report by Morning Star News, a 500-member Protestant church in Makouda was officially closed by the authorities today, October 15. This comes only one day after the congregation received an order from the government, notifying them that the church would be closed. In response, congregants of the Makouda church filled the place of worship in protest of the closure.
The second church, the Protestant Church of the Full Gospel of Tizi-Ouzou (EPPETO), was notified that its building would be closed on October 16. However, despite the closure order being effective for October 16, authorities also closed EPPETO today. EPPETO represents the largest church west of the Nile River, with 1,000 members in the congregation. The church’s head pastor, Pastor Salah Chalah, is also the head of the EPA.
“Today, two of the largest churches in Algeria have been closed,” an EPA spokesperson, speaking with ICC on the condition of anonymity, said. “We do not understand the relentless injustice of the Algerian government towards us. They refuse to hear us or listen to us.”
Last week, the EPA organized peaceful protests against church closures. The orders for the two most recent churches to be closed come just days after the completion of the protests. Pastor Salah attempted to meet with governing authorities multiple times over this issue, without success.
“Algerian Christians have now found themselves with thousands of Christians without a place of worship,” the EPA spokesperson told ICC. “But we remain confident in the Lord. We need the prayers of our brothers and sisters from across the world.”
The two churches have been closed under a 2006 law that mandates any non-Muslim worship be conducted in specific, designated buildings. However, no church has received official permission since the passage of the law. With these closures, seven of Algeria’s 60 EPA-affiliated churches have been closed in the past six weeks.
ICC’s Advocacy Director, Matias Perttula, commented, “Reports of rising levels of religious intolerance in Algeria are once again causing a great level of concern for ICC and our partners. These church closures are completely baseless and clear indicators of persecution and harassment of Algeria’s Christians, who represent a significant religious minority. ICC plans to raise this issue with our partners as well as members of Congress on Capitol Hill to make them aware of these human rights violations.”