An Algerian court has ordered a church in the northern Tizi Ouzou province to close because it lacks the necessary permit, reports Christian advocacy group Middle East Concern (MEC).
The closure of the church in Ait Djemaa is the latest in a string of closures of Protestant churches over the past year. The most recent closures took place in July and October, while in April a Christian bookshop and day-care centre for Christian children were also closed.
The Protestant church in Ait Djemaa, with around 200 members, received the order on 14 November. Court papers filed by the district authorities in September 2017 stated that the church building was located in a zone for residential and commercial use only. The pastor had received a notice from the authorities in February 2016, ordering the church to stop its activities.
The court said the church had to close its doors after failing to receive permission from the National Committee for Non-Muslim Worship. Algerian law prescribes that permission is necessary for all forms of non-Muslim worship, but according to MEC most of the applications receive no response from the government.
And although the church is affiliated with the Protestant Church in Algeria (EPA), the court said individual churches still needed to obtain official permission for their respective congregations to meet, said MEC, adding that the EPA would appeal the decision.
Meanwhile the church body is yet to receive a response for the re-registration application it submitted in 2013, following new laws that came into effect in 2012. This means that, technically, it lacks official legal status.