Spate of church closures continues as Algerian authorities claim buildings breach health and safety laws

15 February 2018

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Algerian authorities are citing health and safety regulations to shut down church buildings, in actions one Arab Christian organisation has described as “a new wave of persecution”. A source reports that eight churches have been shut down by the government.

In December, a church in Ouragla in southern Algeria was ordered by the governor to cease all religious activities following a building inspection on 14 December 2017. The church leaders were told that they lacked the proper authorization to use the building as a place of worship and were accused of failing to comply with health and safety requirements.

In 2006, the Algerian government introduced a law requiring registration of premises used for Christian worship; pictured is a historic church in Algiers
CC BY-SA 3.0 by Xiaotong Gao

Two Protestant churches in the north-east province of Bejaia were also visited by police, fire brigade authorities and representatives from the ministry of religious affairs in December. The officials said that the visits were part of the government's efforts to check compliance with safety regulations. On 9 November, authorities shut down a church in Ain Turk, after accusing a Christian bookshop of illegally printing Bibles and evangelistic material.

A source in Algeria stated, “These recent days, there is a government commission that is going around to visit all the churches to look for little faults and give notifications for closure. (They distributed a lot of notifications and they even closed some churches). Among other things they look if the building has all the standards to be used as a place of worship, so you have to have an emergency exit, the doors must open outward, have fire extinguishers, first aid box, have qualified agents to give first aid in case etc.”

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