Christians in north-central Algeria were kicked out of their churches by police just days after many faithful protested the government’s crackdown on houses of worship.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a U.K.-based nongovernmental organization that monitors persecution in 20 countries and has consultative status with the U.N., reports that three Algerian Christian churches have been shut down this month.
According to CSW, the number of churches that have been shut down in Algeria so far this year has risen to at least eight.
Since 2017, waves of church closures have been carried out by authorities in the Muslim-majority country on the basis of a 2006 law that requires all non-Islamic places of worship to be authorized by a national government agency.
Critics say that that agency, the National Commission for Non-Muslim Worship, does not actually meet and therefore, applications to build new churches are not considered.
On Wednesday, police shut down The Light Church in the city of Tizi Ouzou in north-central Algeria and evicted worshipers from the church.
The forced closure of The Light Church follows the closing of two other churches this week: Protestant Church of the Full Gospel in Tizi Ouzou and Source of Life Church in the Tizi Ouzou suburb of Makouda.
Salah Chalah, who heads the Protestant umbrella group l’Église Protestante d’Algérie, told Morning Star News that he received an order by the Tizi Ouzou governor on Sunday calling for the closing of the Protestant Church of the Full Gospel.
Chalah contends that the governor’s order to seal the church shut came in retaliation for a sit-in protesting church closures held at the Bejaia Province headquarters last week. He said the order for the church’s closure was dated on Oct. 9, the same day the Christian sit-in was held.
“After Tarek read the notification, they asked me to sign it, which I refused to do,” Chalah told Morning Star News. “But they said they were going to act anyway. Then I told them, ‘Anyway, on your arrival, we will wait for you, as many as possible, inside the room of worship in praise and prayer. That’s our way of opposing your actions.’”
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Samuel Smith