By Eric Leijenaar, BosNewsLife Senior Special Correspondent
ALGIERS, ALGERIA (BosNewsLife) -- An elderly American pastor and former chairman of the Protestant Church of Algeria was preparing Thursday, February 28, to launch an appeal against plans by authorities to deport him from the country.
In comments published by an influential Dutch Roman Catholic news Website, RKnieuws.net, Hugh Johnson said he had been told to leave the country by March 11. Johnson, 74, has been living in Algeria for 45 years. Algerian media, monitored by BosNewsLife, quoted Religious Affairs Ministry sources as saying that the was decision to expel the pastor was made after her brought a copy of the Bible's New Testament into the country without permission.
The announced deportation was the latest in a series of incidents involving authorities targeting Christians for their alleged involvement in evangelism or other missionary activities, said Roman Catholic Archbishop of Algiers, Henri Teissier, in published comment.
He said French priest Pierre Wallez was given a suspended one year prison sentence last month for praying with Christians in western Algeria in a place not authorized for religious worship.
Teissier told reporters that increased activity by especially evangelical Christians in the overwhelmingly Muslim country led to periodic "serious difficulties" for Catholics even though the church had clearly explained it was not involved.
"For the last two years, we have serious difficulties made for us by the Algerian administration every two or three months," Reuters news agency quoted him as saying. "I think it's due to the fight against the proselytising by evangelical groups."
In addition devoted believers have come under pressure in Kabylia, a cultural region in the north of Algeria, where Christians have been arrested and dismissed from their workplace in recent months, said Netherlands-based Open Doors, a group investigating persecution reports.
Recently the director of a Christian school in Kabylia region was allegedly fired by Algeria's Ministry of Education for his alleged involvement in evangelism. Open Doors researchers quoted the national radio broadcaster as saying that the director "used the school to propagate Christianity, in violation of the study plan of the school."
Earlier in Kabylia, in the town of Tizi Ouzo, five Christians were sentenced for preaching Christianity last year, with some of them receiving one year imprisonment, BosNewsLife
reported earlier, citing Algerian media in September.
In 2006, Algeria passed new religious legislation which says that anyone "trying to call on a Muslim to embrace another religion," could be sentenced to prison for two to five years and receive a fine of up to USD 12,000.
Commentators say the law was in response to Christian evangelists and missionary workers who have preached in several parts of the country. There are some 11,000 Christians in Algeria, a country of 33 million people, according to Catholic estimates. (With reporting by BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos).
Copyright 2008 BosNewsLife. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without our prior written consent.