The recent closure of three Protestant churches and a police assault on worshipers at one church are the latest examples of the repression of this tiny religious minority in Algeria, Human Rights Watch has said.
“The government should immediately reopen the churches and publicly commit to protecting freedom for all religious communities in Algeria,” said the organization on Thursday.
Police raided and shut the biggest Protestant church in the country, the Full Gospel Church, in Tizi Ouzou, on October 15, and assaulted worshipers, including Salah Chalah, the church’s pastor and president of the Protestant Church of Algeria, Chalah told Human Rights Watch.
The following day, police sealed two other churches in Tizi Ouzou province. On October 17, police arrested, and later released, dozens of Protestants who were protesting the crackdown in front of the Tizi Ouzou governorate.
“Algerian authorities should allow religious minorities the same freedom to practice their faith as the Muslim majority,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “All churches that have been shut arbitrarily should be allowed to reopen.”
The three closures bring to 12 the number of Protestant churches the authorities have closed since November 2018, the Protestant Church of Algeria said, mostly on the grounds that the state has not granted permission for these sites to be used as places of worship.