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Algeria: Pastor of Church That Was Ordered to Close Is Sentenced To Prison

Rachid Seighir was sentenced for “shaking the faith” of Muslims with Christian literature. This story illustrates the insecurity and fear with which many non-Christian governing authorities the world over regard Christianity. They are aware of how our Lord Jesus Christ can transform souls, and they work hard to prevent the message of the Holy Gospel from reaching their people.

The modern nation of Algeria was once a renowned center of Orthodox Christianity. The holy martyr St. Cyprian of Carthage, Blessed Augustine of Hippo, and many other saints hailed from North Africa. But in 647, the first Arab invaders arrived, and the Islamization of the area began. Ultimately, Christianity was entirely wiped out in North Africa.

Today Christianity, albeit not yet Holy Orthodoxy, is returning to North Africa. Yet as we see in so many areas, this article shows yet again that the persecution of Christians is mandated by the government and legal authorities.

For previous ChristianPersecution.com coverage of the persecution of Christians in Algeria, see here.

“Pastor of Church Ordered to Close in Algeria Sentenced to Prison,” Morning Star News, June 6, 2021:

TIZI-OUZOU, Algeria (Morning Star News) – Less than a week after a a court in Algeria ordered pastor Rachid Seighir’s church to close, a judge in a separate case today sentenced him to a year in prison and a fine for “shaking the faith” of Muslims with Christian literature at his bookstore, sources said.

Pastor Seighir’s Oratoire Church building in the city of Oran was one of three ordered to be sealed in western Algeria’s Oran Province on Wednesday (June 2). On Sunday (June 6) he and bookstore salesman Nouh Hamimi were sentenced to a year in prison and a fine of 200,000 dinars (US$1,494) in a ruling on their appeal of a prior sentence of two years in prison and a fine of 500,000 dinars (US$3,745).

The pastor was the manager of the now-closed bookstore in Oran, a coastal city 268 miles west of Algiers. The judgment in March read that he and Hamimi were condemned for “distributing publications or any other propaganda undermining the faith of a Muslim.”

Pastor Seighir has said the conviction was mere retaliation in a conflict over the bookstore going back to 2008, when he was convicted of the same charges and acquitted on appeal. The governor of Oran ordered the bookshop closed in 2017, but in April 2018, a court ruled the closure order was invalid due to procedural problems – though authorities continued to keep the bookshop closed, he said.

Sunday’s appeal ruling came after postponements of scheduled hearings on May 16 and May 30. The Christians’ attorney, Farid Khemisti, said they would appeal on Wednesday (June 9) to the Court of Oran and, if necessary, to the Supreme Court.

Algeria’s 2006 law regulating non-Muslim worship, known as Law 03/06, criminalizes the publishing or distributing of any materials “which aim to undermine the faith of a Muslim.” Punishment can range from two to five years in prison and fines of 500,000 to 1 million Algerian dinars (US$3,745 to US$7,490).

Church Closures

The court ruling on Wednesday (June 2) ordering the closure Pastor Seighir’s church building and those of churches in El-Ayaid and Ain-Turk came as a result of efforts to seal the buildings by the governor (wali) of Oran Province.

“This is a judgment that the wali of Oran won against us,” Pastor Seighir told Morning Star News. “It is ordered to proceed with the immediate closure of the three places of worship.”

Ain-Turk is about 35 kilometers (21 miles) west of the city of Oran, and El-AIyaid is about 35 kilometers east of Oran.

“To tell you the truth, I don’t understand what’s going on,” Pastor Seighir said. “This is purely an attack against us Algerian Christians and the churches. There have been three different walis, and that did not prevent the charges against us from remaining. It is therefore clear that the source of our trouble comes from those higher than the walis.”

On Dec. 28, 2017, the then-governor of Oran Province, Mouloud Cherifi, had sent notice that the Oratoire church was “not in accordance with the laws in force,” namely registration under Law 03/06, which regulates non-Muslim worship. The 2006 law requires non-Muslim worship buildings to be licensed, but all applications to do so have remained unattended.

The ruling against Pastor Seighir and Hamimi comes after a Christian who had received and reposted a cartoon of the prophet of Islam on his Facebook account three years ago was sentenced to five years in prison and fined 100,000 dinars (US$750) under an Algerian law against insulting Muhammad….

Islam is the state religion in the 99-percent Muslim country. Since 2000, thousands of Algerian Muslims have put their faith in Christ. Algerian officials estimate the number of Christians at 50,000, but others say it could be twice that number.

Algeria ranked 24th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2021 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, up from 42nd place in 2018.

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