Brian C. Stiller on the Closing of Churches in Algeria

In Algeria, police shuttered the Protestant Church of the Full Gospel of Tizi-Ouzou in a spree of church closures affecting the 125,000 Christians in the majority Muslim nation. Morning Star News photo

Brian C. Stiller is a Global Ambassador for the World Evangelical Alliance.


Just days ago, Christians joined in a public protest against the Algerian government for shutting down churches. This is unusual. Algeria is an Islamic state. Christians here fear for their very existence. Usually they work out these matters behind closed doors. But this time it was different. Christians (specifically Protestants/evangelicals) sufficiently frustrated by the harassment of their government, took to the streets in protest.

But first, some background

Bordering North Africa, just a few miles south from Spain, across the Mediterranean, this Islamic country of 41 million was Christian by the 5th century, but the Arabs changed that two centuries later.

Experienced Protestant missionaries arrived when colonized by France in the mid 19th century. Troubled by their difficult transition to independence, some 800,000, many of them Christians, left for France during the civil war of the 1970s.

In 1972, the EPA (l’Église Protestante d’Algérie or Protestant Church of Algeria) was formed, and now is a member of the World Evangelical Alliance. Numbers show the Christian community – Catholics and Protestant/evangelicals – to be over 300,000.

With a population that is 98 percent Sunni-Islamic, the government presses to restrict Christian presence or witness. In 1990, a new law made it so that the EPA was ruled illegal. In 2006, this was exacerbated by a new ordinance which said any location where there was religious worship was illegal unless registered.

So, churches were closed, Christians arrested, and made vulnerable by the very possibility they could be charged for blasphemy: one of the most horrific charges one can receive in an Islamic country.

Closures

On Tuesday, September 24, police arrived just before noon at the Church of Boghni, sealing doors and windows. The church, a worship center for 190 under pastor Tahar Chergui, is also a worship center for 200 from a nearby village. They meet on Saturday. The pastor said,

I was surprised when one of the police officers contacted me to meet them at the site where our church is. . . I had not received any notice; they went straight to proceed with the closure by sealing. They could have warned us before; why didn’t they?

The aggravating reason for closure was detailed, attached to the building.

We, the police of Boghni, inform the whole population of Boghni that the premises illegally used by the named Tahar Chergui to celebrate non-Muslim worship was closed and sealed by order of the governor dated Sept. 18, 2019. Signed by the president of district security.

Under their 2006 law, churches must obtain permission to be registered, but the governmental body has not approved any applications. To date, eight churches have been closed.

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Source: Christianity Today

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