Algerian Christians ask for renewed prayer as they face an ongoing and systematic campaign of legal pressure by the authorities.
On 14 November a court ordered the closure of the church in Aït Djemaa, 35 km south of Tizi Ouzou in the district of Ait Bouadou. The order was made because the church does not hold the necessary permission from the National Committee for Non-Muslim Worship.
The district authorities filed a court case against this church in September 2017, accusing the church of breaching regulations under the 2006-03 decree which regulates non-Muslim worship. The building is zoned for residential or commercial use but not as a place of worship. The church is affiliated to the Protestant Church of Algeria (L’Église Protestante d’Algérie / EPA), but the court has ruled that such affiliation does not remove the requirement for individual churches to obtain permission from the National Committee. The EPA will appeal the recent verdict.
This situation reflects a long-standing legal difficulty faced by churches in Algeria. The 2006-03 decree stipulates that permission must be obtained before using a building for non-Muslim worship. However, the authorities have failed to respond to almost all applications by churches affiliated with the legally-registered EPA. Given the lack of response, it has become standard practice for churches to rent premises and inform local authorities that they are using their premises as places of worship.
The church in Aït Djemaa was started in December 2015 and has about 200 members. In February 2016, the district authorities issued a notice advising the pastor to cease all church activities, but the church has continued to meet.
Christians in Algeria are concerned that this court verdict might provide a precedent for similar action by municipal authorities against other churches. They ask us to pray:
- that the church pastor and leaders of the EPA will know the peace of Jesus, the wisdom of the Father and the guidance of the Holy Spirit in dealing with this situation
- that the appeals court would reverse the verdict, that no further legal action will be taken against this or other churches, and that Christians will be able to gather in places of worship without hindrance
- that the regulations governing non-Muslim worship will be amended and justly implemented, so that Christians will be able to worship freely
- that those responsible for the closure order will know the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the forgiveness and new life offered by Jesus.