Middle East Concern and Algerian Christians have requested prayer for a church in the south of Tizi Ouzou province which has been ordered to close.
On 24th April the church leaders received a letter from the district authorities requiring the church to cease all religious activities, on the grounds that they are in breach of a 2006 decree which regulates non-Muslim worship.
This is the second time a church in this province has been ordered to close in the last two months.
The letter cited a breach of section 5 of the decree, which states that use of a non-Muslim place of worship is subject to prior authorisation by the National Commission for Non-Muslim Religious Groups (overseen by the Ministry of Religious Affairs).
The letter also claimed that the lease for the church building, rented on behalf of the Protestant Church of Algeria (L’Église Protestante d’Algérie / EPA), is not valid because the building is registered as residential premises. The letter ordered the church leaders to ensure that the building is used for residential purposes only.
Because the National Commission does not actually meet and so never gives permission for buildings to be used as churches, most churches affiliated to the EPA rent buildings and inform local authorities that the buildings will be used as places of worship. One month before they received this closure order, the leaders of this particular church had informed local authorities that they intended to use the building they had rented as a place of worship.
EPA leaders say that the closure order limits freedom of worship which is guaranteed in the Algerian constitution. The issue of permission for places of worship is one of several points in the 2006 decree which clearly restrict the religious freedom of non-Muslims and contradict, not only the provisions of the country’s new constitution, but also Algeria’s commitments to religious freedom under international law.
Christians in Algeria ask for prayer:
- for the church’s leaders to know the peace of Jesus, the wisdom of the Father and the guidance of the Holy Spirit as they try to deal with this difficult situation.
- that the closure order will be withdrawn, and that the church will be able to worship in the building without further hindrance.
- that the law will be changed so that it ensures religious freedom, such as freedom to worship and freedom to evangelise.
- that those responsible for the closure order will know the conviction of the Holy Spirit and find forgiveness and new life offered by Jesus Christ.
1 Timothy 2 vs 1 – 4: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings should be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.“