Algerian Government Continues Crackdown on House Churches, Limits Attendees, Arrests Pastors
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The Algerian government has ramped up its crackdown on Christian churches in the North African country, including sentencing several Algerian church leaders to prison, according to a report.
House churches can now have only limited meetings of 10 people, according to the persecution watchdog International Christian Concern (ICC).
According to the ICC, the Algerian government shut down at least 16 churches last year, continuing its closure of churches since the COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020.
Life in the North African country has become even more difficult for Christians since the Israel-Hamas war began. The Algerian government regards Christians as supporters of Israel in the ongoing conflict, and also sees them as a part of the foreign and western influences corrupting the nation's Islamic national unity, the ICC explains.
Much like the rest of the Middle East and North Africa, the country has experienced street protests over Israel's latest war with Hamas in Gaza. The government has issued some of the region's most supportive statements to the Palestinians, calling "Zionist colonial occupation" the heart of the conflict on the day Hamas militants first attacked Israel. But it has imposed restrictions on some street protests, including those organized by Islamists opposed to the government.
Morocco, Algeria's main rival in the region, normalized relations with Israel through the historic U.S.-led Abraham Accords in 2020. For doing so, the U.S. recognized Morocco's territorial claim over Western Sahara, which Algeria opposed.
The situation for Algerian Christians is further complicated by the fact that most believers come from the Kabyle ethnic group. Unfortunately, this same group also has a separatist movement against the Algerian central government, and the government at present, does not make a distinction between faith and political movements in the country, the ICC said.
In May, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended in its 2023 Annual Report that Algeria remain on the U.S. State Department's Special Watch List based on its government's perpetration or toleration of severe religious freedom violations. The country had been placed on the watch list in November of 2022.
Christians are a tiny majority in Algeria, comprising only (0.3%) of the country's total population of a little more than 45 million, according to Open Doors. The number of Christians is estimated to be around 139,000.
Algeria currently is listed as No. 19 on the Open Doors World Watch List of places where is most difficult to be a Christian.
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