After Shutting Down Protestant Churches, Algeria Now Persecuting Individual Christians

Praying Woman

The shutdown of 13 churches by the Algerian government in 2018 was the beginning of government restrictions on Christians. All Protestant churches are now shuttered, and individual Christians are experiencing the worst of government persecution.

The International Christian Concern (ICC) reports that since the COVID-19 outbreak struck Algeria, Protestant churches have stayed closed due to "safety" concerns, but mosques and the Catholic Church have been permitted to resume their worship services inside.

The Protestant Church of Algeria (EPA) was notified by the Ministry of Religious Affairs that it was not their obligation to handle the reopening of the churches, but they did not name another body responsible. Further, the UN Algerian envoy said that it was in fact their job to do so.

Persecution against the church gained momentum in October 2019 when Algerian President Bouteflika retired, according to Salah Chalah, President of the EPA and head pastor of Full Gospel Church in Tizi-Ouzou. Pastor Chalah contacted ICC before, requesting prayer for Algeria and sharing a video of his church being forcefully shuttered in October 2019. With two weekly services, active social media, and virtual prayer sessions and trainings, the Algerian Protestant Church now runs nearly exclusively online.

With no more churches to close, the Algerian government seems to be focusing on individual believers. Pastor Chalah told the French paper "Christianity Today" that the nation is now seeing a "new wave of persecution."

Hamid Soudad, an Algerian Christian, lost his appeal and was sentenced to five years in jail for blasphemy. In 2018, he was found guilty of posting a caricature of Islam's prophet on Facebook.

Hamid's lawyer, Farid Khemisti, believes the highest penalty was given to him because he is a Christian. Both the court and the prosecution were shocked, according to Khemisti, as he offered the alleged explanation for Hamid's sentencing. His $750 USD fine was also upheld by the courts.

Following the first incident, Hamid was charged by a former coworker who was an Islam fanatic. In December 2020, he was the one who filed the complaint lawsuit. Hamid was unaware of any continuing problem until authorities arrived at his home on January 20, 2021. He was condemned to jail without warning the following day.

On May 16, Pastor Rachid Sieghir and his bookstore assistant Nouh Hamami had their last appeal for two-year jail terms on blasphemy charges reviewed, and a decision is expected on May 30.

The two men were found guilty of proselytizing and sentenced to two years in jail and a fine on February 27. Their cases were set to be heard on April 18.

When the business was seized in September 2017, the police seized Christian literature that was used to justify their conviction. Their allegation of preaching stemmed from an Algerian legislation prohibiting "producing, storing, or disseminating printed documents, audiovisuals, or using any other means with the intent to undermine the faith of a Muslim."

Pastor Rachid and Nouh Hamami were sentenced in absentia on February 27, 2021, for identical charges. Both incidents are at least three years old.