“You can seal our churches but you can’t seal our hearts” is the cry from Algeria as churches are being sealed shut despite Article 42 of the Algerian Constitution guaranteeing its citizens freedom to worship and the freedom to meet for a service. The October 15 closure of the largest of these – the 1,200-member Full Gospel Church of Tizi Ouzou (EPPETO) – has also halted live television broadcasts of the weekly services by Christian broadcaster SAT-7.
Pastor Salah Challah, the President of the Protestant Church of Algeria (EPA) and senior pastor of the Full Gospel congregation, has been highlighting the situation since he and leaders of two other large churches received notification that their buildings were to be closed immediately, on October 15 and 16.
“We do not know how far this will go and what are the intentions of our authorities,” he said in a video message shared on social media. He appealed to fellow believers to “join us in prayer because the situation is critical.”
Nevertheless, Mr. Challah said authorities “can seal our churches but not our hearts.” This has been demonstrated in a series of posts shared by the Algerian churches. Several show members of the Full Gospel church worshiping outside its locked doors on a staircase, while another shows protesters praying outside the 100-member Light Church (L’eglise Tafat) in Tizi Ouzou on the day it was closed.
The Full Gospel Church was established in 1996 and, like the other closed churches, belongs to the Protestant Church of Algeria (EPA). This association of around 45 churches was legally recognized in 2011 and was originally registered as far back as 1974.
But all of the churches have struggled to comply with an ordinance introduced in 2006 that requires non-Muslim meeting places to have prior official authorization. Despite all applications from the Full Gospel Church and other congregations, the government has yet to issue any license for a church building. Similarly, the EPA has made repeated attempts to re-register under a 2012 Law on Associations, but these applications were ignored. Since November 2017, over a dozen of the country’s churches have been closed.
Rita El-Mounayer, International CEO of SAT-7, comments: “Since 2012, SAT-7 has been broadcasting worship services from the Full Gospel Church of Tizi Ouzou on our Arabic channel. The enthusiastic response we receive from viewers shows how much these are valued by our Algerian viewers.
“We pray that the doors of these Algerian churches will soon be unlocked and that our fellow Christians there will have the freedom to worship which they enjoy so much.”
As well as broadcasting worship services in the Algerian Amazigh dialect, SAT-7 also screens a program in which Algerian believers share their personal faith stories, a woman’s show in Amazigh, and a children’s program, A Verse and a Story.
Some 80 percent of SAT-7 programs are made in the Middle East and North Africa. They are non-political and never criticize other faiths.
Algerian church leaders ask for prayer:
- That God gives church leaders wisdom for this mission
- For those responsible in the church to be able to judge well the situation they are in
- To further develop home prayer groups with guidance from the Holy Spirit
- That Algerian believers’ love for others will remain steadfast
- Giving thanks that the church closings have created new opportunities for Algerian Christians to minister to their communities
You can make a difference by interceding in prayer for the reopening of these Algerian churches. Get additional updates in the monthly Prayer Calendar here.