Algeria Prosecutes Protestants Over ‘Non-Muslim Rites’
By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) – The senior pastor of Algeria’s largest Protestant church is among those facing a court on charges such as “practicing non-Muslim rites without permission,” sources said Thursday.
Pastor Salah Chalah, who is also president of the Protestant Church of Algeria (EPA), and three other Christians were reportedly summoned to appear in court Sunday, December 5.
Besides being charged with involvement in unauthorized non-Muslim rites, Pastor Salah is also prosecuted for ‘organizing an assembly,’ said Christians familiar with the case.
Penalties could range from heavy fines to up to five years’ imprisonment, Worthy News learned.
The other three Christians received similar charges, but one of them also faces charges for allegedly taking photographs of people without their permission, Christians said.
Advocacy group Voice Of the Martyrs Canada (VOMC) told Worthy News that the “accusations likely stem from a peaceful demonstration that was held in October 2019.”
The demonstration was against the forcible sealing of Pastor Salah’s church building.
The EPA, which comprises 47 churches, is the only recognized Protestant organization in Algeria, VOMC explained in an assessment.
The denomination was required to re-register with the government after a change in law during 2012, “but the authorities have not yet approved their application,” VOMC said.
For the past four years, a systematic government campaign has resulted in 16 churches being sealed and several others ordered to close, according to Christians.
Christians said they urged prayers for the four Christians and other reportedly persecuted believers throughout the Muslim nation. They also hope authorities will end their crackdown on devoted Christians and churches.
Algeria, a gateway between Africa and Europe, has already been battered by violence over the past half-century.
At least hundreds of thousands of people were killed during the war against France for independence in the 1950s and early 60s.
The Northern Africa nation later endured bloody conflicts after elections that Islamists appeared certain to win were canceled in 1992. A low-level Islamist insurgency still affects Algeria, impacting Christians, according to experts.
President Abdelmadjid Tebboune is under pressure to overcome the nation’s violent legacy and allow more freedom for non-Muslims, including Christians.
He claimed victory in the December 2019 presidential election from a field of candidates all associated with the era of President Abdelaziz, who was forced to leave by mass protests.
The opposition boycotted the election in protest against the still-powerful military-dominated elite and ongoing corruption.
Christians comprise less than 1 percent of the country’s mainly Muslim population of roughly 44 million, according to official data.
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