A historic church building in Algeria that was appropriated by a local authority has been returned to the Church.
The building, in the port city of Mostaganem, is one of several places of worship of historical significance requisitioned for secular use.
The Église Protestante d’Algérie (EPA), the organisation representing the Protestant Church in Algeria, had campaigned for over ten years for such buildings to be returned to Church ownership. Long-drawn-out court cases have been pursued to oblige those using the buildings to return them.
Until 2011, the building in Mostaganem served as a public health centre. Another health organisation was granted the lease when the health centre moved, prompting the EPA in 2012 to initiate legal proceedings for the restoration of the building.
Although a verdict in May 2019 was agreed in EPA’s favour, authorities did not implement it in the two months laid down by law, causing further delays. The building was not returned to the EPA until this month.
The overdue legal redress in the case of the church at Mostaganem contrasts sharply with the continued closure of many other church buildings by the authorities as part of the clampdown on Algerian Christians.
According to a 2006 ordinance, the National Commission for Non-Muslim Worship grants permits for churches but, so far, no permits have been issued, despite repeated applications by churches.
So-called “building safety” committees have inspected many church buildings since November 2017. Part of their remit is to request permits under the 2006 ordinance. Whereas some 20 churches have been forced to curtail all activities since the beginning of 2018, only three of these churches have been granted permission to reopen.
The 500-congregation Source of Life Church in Makouda was one of three buildings sealed by the authorities on 15 October 2019 and has remained closed.