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Algeria: Authorities seal shut another church building — the seventh since November

In the early centuries of Christianity, the area that is modern-day Algeria was a center of Latin-speaking Orthodoxy. North Africa was the home of many important figures of the early Church, including the second-century Christian writer Tertullian, St. Cyprian of Carthage, St. Augustine of Hippo, and St. Julia of Carthage. But the ancient Christian communities of North Africa, with the exception of Egypt, were obliterated long ago; now the small number of Christians in Algeria are virtually all evangelical Christian converts from Islam. The government makes life quite difficult for them: note that in this instance, the government has frozen new applications for membership in the Protestant Church of Algeria (EPA), and then closes churches that aren’t registered with the state — which the freeze on new applications has rendered impossible. Please keep these Christians in this impossible situation in your prayers, and pray also to Almighty God for the revival of Holy Orthodoxy in this region where it so long ago flourished.

“Authorities in Algeria Seal Shut Another Church Building,” Morning Star News, July 17, 2018:

TIZI-OUZOU, Algeria (Morning Star News) – Church leaders didn’t get an explanation for why the seventh worship building to be closed in Algeria since November was sealed last week, but they suspect lack of registration was the pretext.

It is virtually impossible to register a church in Algeria under current restrictions. Although three of the six churches previously closed were allowed to reopen last month, the shuttering on Wednesday (July 11) of the church building in the northeastern town of Riki was taken as a sign that harassment of Christian institutions that began in November is not over.

The church of about 60 people, which began meeting at its building in Riki, near Akbou in Bejaia Province, on Aug. 11, 2017, had not been able to affiliate with the Protestant Church of Algeria (EPA) because the Ministry of Interior recently ordered the once-legally recognized association to freeze all new applications for membership, said Esaid Benamara, pastor of the Riki church.

After the church finished worship on July 7, a Saturday, the congregation was surprised when policemen in two vehicles arrived and asked Pastor Benamara to come to their office. They agreed to his offer to come the next day, and the pastor and his brother went to the office.

“Once there, they let us know that they had been ordered to close the premises of our church and the sealing of the entrance doors,” Pastor Benamara told Morning Star News. “We then asked that they give us the order in question, or at least a copy. ‘We’ll give it to you later,’ one of them told us.”

On July 10, the pastor received a phone call from the police (gendarmerie) asking him to go to their brigade post as soon as possible, and again he went with his brother. They waited there until 7 p.m., when the brigade chief showed up and asked them to leave and return with the building owner because the closure notification was sent to him, the pastor said.

They returned with the building owner the next day.

“They presented a statement to Mahdi Amara [the building owner], asking him to sign it, because the closing order was addressed to him in person,”Pastor Benamara said. “Then they told us that they would go later in the day to execute the order received from the wali [Bejaia provincial chief].”

Near noon on July 11, two vans from the gendarmerie brigade parked at the door of the church, he said.

“Three of the gendarmes entered the church and executed their order. They put the curtain and the front door under seal, which strictly forbids us to open the doors of the church once closed,” Pastor Benamara told Morning Star News. “After execution of the order of the wali of Bejaia to close the premises, the gendarmes left.”

The policemen told them they had sent a notification of closure to the building owner dated Feb. 24, “something we have never received,” the pastor said.

“That’s where we are,” he said. “Thus our church is closed, and our faithful can no longer meet.”

A 2007 executive decree requires all non-Muslim places of worship in Algeria to register with the state, according to the U.S. State Department. Pastor Benamara said the government freeze on new EPA members has kept it from registering….

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