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Algerian Churches get protection from closure

June 16, 2011 by  
Filed under Algeria, Persecution, World

A Church in AlgeriaA senior magistrate has assured Algerian church leaders that no churches in their region will be closed in a welcome turnaround following a threatening closure notice from a police chief. Leaders of the Algerian Protestant Church Association (EPA) met with the Wali of Bejaia, the senior magistrate in the region, on Wednesday after a police high commissioner ordered the closure of all unregistered churches “across the national territory”. The magistrate assured them that, despite the police order, no church in the region would be closed and that he would personally see to the protection and continuity of the Protestant church’s activities. In a statement, the EPA said: The association of Algerian Protestant Churches, through its President, gratefully thank the Wali of Bejaia as well as the office of the security services for having taken the initiative to invite us to meet to clarify the situation of the protestant churches in the Wilaya (legal administrative region)… We rejoice that the decision of the Wali is in accord with the recent statements of the Minister of the Interior.

The head of the Algerian Protestant Church Association (EPA) – to which the majority of Algerian churches belong – received a notice, dated 22 May, from the Bejaia Police High Commissioner informing him that a decision had been made to close down all Christian places of worship throughout the country that were not designated for religious purposes. This applied to the majority of churches because it has proved impossible for them to obtain registration from the authorities following stringent regulations introduced in 2006, which were designed to restrict the religious activity of non-Muslims. At the meeting with the magistrate this week, the EPA leaders presented a file of documents showing all the administrative efforts they have taken since 2006 to comply with the regulations. Numerous applications have been met with no response. Similar closure notifications, like the one received in Bejaia, have been issued to EPA churches before, and several well-established churches were briefly closed in 2008. While the 2006 law remains in place, Algerian churches are vulnerable to these sporadic attempts to enforce it.

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