January 2, 2019 – The official notice that a village pastor in Algeria received on Sunday (Dec. 30) confirmed what he had heard – his church had been ordered to close.
Pastor Rabah Messaoudi had won a legal battle in 2017 after local officials in the Muslim country tried to close his church in Ait-Jimaa village, 45 kilometers (27 miles) from Tizi-Ouzou in north-central Algeria. But the head of Ait-Bouadou Commune (County) and a district official in Tizi Ouzou Province in Kabylie Region were determined to do away with the Christian presence in the area and took the matter back to court, sources said.
“And this time, the judgment was in his favor, albeit slightly below what he hoped for,” the pastor’s attorney, Nadjib Sadek, told Morning Star News. “Because his lawyers had asked for financial compensation, which the judge found unfounded and did not allow.”
The Ait-Bouadou official and his five lawyers used Algeria’s 2006 law on religion, commonly known as Law 03/06, to close the church, which requires non-Muslim places of worship to register with government officials, though they are slow to grant permission if they act at all.
The Ait-Bouadou official had ordered Pastor Messaoudi to stop all Christian activity on the church premises in 2016, on grounds that its building permit was for residential and commercial purposes, Sadek said. The local officials filed the order on Feb. 18, 2016 after receiving notice from someone who attended worship and confirmed that the building was being used for religious activity, according to court documents.
Islam is the state religion in Algeria, where 99 percent of the population of 40 million are Muslim. Since 2000, thousands of Algerian Muslims have put their faith in Christ.
Algerian officials estimate the number of Christians at 50,000, but others say it could be twice that number.
Algeria ranked 42nd on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.