By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
ALGIERS (Worthy News) - Supporters of Christians in Algeria urge prayers saying Islamic authorities close worship places, including in the Mediterranean port city Béjaïa.
The closed church in Béjaïa, with more than 300 members, is an affiliate of the Église Protestante d'Algérie (EPA), the recognized umbrella group for Protestant churches.
“On April 6, the church was informed of an order from the governor to cease worship immediately,” confirmed Christian advocacy group Voice Of the Martyrs Canada (VOMC).
It is part of a broader government crackdown on especially Protestant churches in the Islamic nation, according to several church sources.
Since November 2017, some 17 churches affiliated with EPA have reportedly been ordered to close or cease their worship activities.
Several non-EPA churches were also told to close “but have not made their identities known to prevent repercussions,” VOMC told Worthy News.
Christians suggest that legislation regulating non-Muslim worship ban anything that would “shake the faith of a Muslim.”
They note that the law also bans “means of seduction intending to convert a Muslim to another religion,” complicating evangelization and other public expressions of faith in Christ.
A 2006 law “repressing worship” remains in place, despite a new constitution being introduced in November 2020, Christians said.
During the past year, several Christians were reportedly prosecuted and imprisoned on blasphemy against Islam and proselytizing charges.
Most Christians in the country are converting from Islam. And, as with most countries in North Africa, these believers face strong opposition from their family and community,” said advocacy group Open Doors.
“This can involve harassment, beatings, threats, and imprisonment, as well as pressure to adhere to Islamic norms and rites,” the group added. Rights activists say Christians often face pressure and danger in the Arab, rural, and religiously more conservative parts of the country. In the 1990s, these regions acted as a stronghold for Islamist insurgents in the fight against the government.
PRAYING FOR ALGERIA
“Pray that Christians in Algeria will be able to continue meeting for worship and fellowship, despite the opposition they encounter,” said VOMC in a message to supporters.
“Specifically pray that the church leaders in Béjaïa will be given direction and wisdom as they determine the best way to continue fulfilling their God-given mission,” it added.
It was not immediately clear how Christians facing church closures would celebrate Easter in the North African nation.
Christians comprise far less than one percent of the country’s 44 million population, according to several sources.
Open Doors suggested that the tiny Christian minority of roughly 134,000 people faces a difficult Easter amid “Islamic oppression” and “very high” persecution in the country of President Abdelmadjid Tebboune.