Algeria allows three churches to reopen following widespread closures of non-Muslim places of worship

The Basilica of Our Lady of Africa, in Algiers, Algeria. | Wikimedia Commons/Damien Boilley

Algerian authorities have allowed three churches to reopen last Sunday following the recent closure of non-Muslim places of worship in several parts of the country.

According to World Watch Monitor, the governor of Oran province have sent out a notice allowing three churches — located in Oran city, Ain Turk and El Ayaida — to re-open. The churches were reportedly shut down between November 2017 and February 2018.

Rachid Seghir, the pastor at the main church of Oran city, said that he found out about the decision to re-open the churches after he was summoned to the police station.

"It was about 1pm when I got a call asking me to get to the police station as soon as possible, without giving further details," Seghir recounted, as reported by World Watch Monitor.

He narrated that he was surprised when he received the notice after arriving at the police station. "It was hard to believe, as I was not expecting such a positive surprise! Honestly, I have not understood anything that happened: I had read the notification and understood it correctly, but I remained amazed. 'Maybe it's just a trap,' I thought," the pastor said.

The pastor recalled that the authorities shut down the church a month after he was asked to comply with safety regulations.

His church was re-opened less than an hour after he went to the police station. However, the authorities had not provided any reason for reversing their decision to shut it down.

At least six churches had been shut down by Algerian authorities since November, according to World Watch Monitor.

In March, authorities ordered the closure of the village church in Azagher because the building was "originally intended for the poultry business" and it did not meet the standards to hold public gatherings.

The L'Eglise Protestante d'Algerie (EPA), the umbrella organization for Protestant churches in the country, hailed the decision to re-open the three churches in Oran province, but lamented the initial decision to shut down the Christian places of worship.

"These three churches have been arbitrarily closed down by the authorities for several months, having prevented their members from worshiping God freely, and this is in clear disregard of the Algerian Constitution and human rights," the EPA said in a statement, as reported by World Watch Monitor.

The group has urged Christians to "maintain pressure" until the authorities re-opens all the other churches. World Watch Monitor noted that churches located in Ait-Mellikeche, Maatkas and Azagher remain closed.