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Joint letter to President of Algeria on Freedom of Religion or Belief in Algeria



To:

Mr Abdelmadjid Tebboune

President of the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria

Brussels, the 8 December 2020


Copies to:

• Kishan Manocha, Head, Tolerance and Non-Discrimination Department, OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights

• Ahmed Shaheed, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief

• Eamon Gilmore, EU Special Representative for Human Rights


Re: Freedom of Religion or Belief in Algeria



Dear Mr President,


We write as an informal group of organizations and individuals who are scholars, religious leaders and human rights advocates. We are from many faiths or acting in a secular capacity, representing a high degree of diversity. While there is very little we agree on theologically, or politically, we all agree on the importance of religious freedom for all faiths and none.


We write to you concerning what we perceive as violations of freedom of religion and belief of Christians in Algeria, including the closure of numerous churches and a failure to renew the registration of the association of Protestant Churches in Algeria (Église Protestante d’Algérie, EPA).


Since January 2018, 13 churches have been sealed and 7 more churches have been ordered to close (see list copied below). These churches are closed because they lack the required permit to hold non-Muslim religious worship services. However, the National Commission for Non-Muslim Religious Groups, which is responsible for issuing these permits, has so far failed to issue a single permit to EPA-affiliated churches.


This clearly shows that the Algerian authorities up to now have not taken genuine steps to improve freedom of religion and belief in Algeria. This despite many requests from the international community to do so.


We welcome the recent passing of the new constitution following the referendum of 1 November 2020. The new constitution clearly seeks to further strengthen human rights in Algeria, including the freedom of worship (Arts. 34 and 51 of the constitution).


We hope that this development will lead to an improvement of human rights and freedom of religion and belief in law and in practice.


We respectfully request your intervention to ensure that:


* all the closed church buildings will be re-opened and Christians be allowed to have places of worship.


* the Algerian authorities process the EPA’s registration application without delay, accept this application and provide official documentation to confirm the EPA’s registration as the representative association of all Protestant churches in Algeria.


* All warnings, closure orders and court cases against churches are withdrawn, and permission is granted to all churches to continue to use rented premises as places of worship.


* the Commission for Non-Muslim Worship will function efficiently and fairly, that pending applications from churches are considered urgently, and that responses to future applications are made within the designated 60-day period.


We would welcome a response from you on these matters, and assurance that the Algerian Government respects the rights of its citizens to freedom of religion and belief.


Yours Sincerely,


Organizations:


Ahmadiyya Muslim Community UK


CAP Freedom of Conscience


CESNUR - Center for Studies on New Religions


Charter For Compassion - Yemen


Christian Freedom International


Christian Solidarity Worldwide - UK


Church of Scientology National Affairs Office Washington, DC


Coptic Solidarity


Danish European Mission


European Interreligious Forum for Religious Freedom


European Office of the Church of Scientology for Public Affairs and Human Rights


Fundacion para la Mejora de la Vida, la Cultura y la Sociedad


Gerard Noodt Foundation for Freedom of Religion or Belief


HRWF - Human Rights Without Frontiers Int’l


Institute on Religion and Democracy


Jubilee Campaign


Middle East Concern


Oasis Network for Community Transformation


Open Doors International


ORLIR - International Observatory of Religious Liberty of Refugees


Religious Freedom Coalition


Religious Freedom Institute


Set My People Free


Stefanus Alliance


United Macedonian Diaspora


Universal Peace Federation Netherlands


United Religions Initiative URI - Yemen


White Mountain Research Group


Individuals:


Naseer Ahmed

Missionary

French Ahmadiyya Association


Eileen Barker OBE

Professor Emeritus

London School of Economics


Rev. Brian Britton

Harvest Family Network


J. Todd Chasteen

Vice President of Public Policy and General Counsel

Samaritan’s Purse


The Most Reverend Joseph K. Grieboski

Secretary for Ecumenical, Interfaith, and Global Engagement

Vicar Apostolic, Holy Land and Appointed Territories

Auxiliary Bishop, Diocese of the Eastern USA

Independent Old Catholic Church


Gail Hambleton

Senior Program Specialist,

Values-based Peacebuilding

Global Peace Foundation, International


Dr. Muhammad Ilyas

Chairman IDRAC

International Dialogue Research & Awareness Centre


Jonathan Imbody

Director

Freedom2Care


Paul Marshall

Wilson Professor

Baylor University


Faith J. H. McDonnell

Co-Leader

GAFCON Suffering Church Network & Anglican Persecuted Church Network


Scott Morgan

President

Red Eagle Enterprises


William J. Murray

President

Religious Freedom Coalition


Bachittar Singh Ughrha

Founder and President,

Center for defence of human rights.

Founder and Vice President,

Gurdwara (Sikh temple) Geneva, Switzerland.


Martin Weightman

Director

All Faiths Network


Frans de Wolff

Secretary

Dutch Network for Interfaith Dialogue







Appendix 1: List of churches either ordered to close or forcibly closed and sealed


1. Ain Turk. House of Hope. Court verdict 20 Jan 2020[1]. Not sealed. ORAN

2. Oran City Church. Court verdict 12 Jan 2020[2]. Not sealed. ORAN

3. Tafat. 15 October 2019. Sealed: 16 October 2019. TIZI-OUZOU

4. Makouda. 14 October 2019. Sealed: 15 October 2019. TIZI-OUZOU

5. Tizi Ouzou Full Gospel. 09 October 2019. Sealed: 15 October 2019.TIZI-OUZOU

6. Tigzirt Church and Bible school. 25. Sep 2019. Sealed: 26. Sep 2019. TIZI-OUZOU

7. Boughni- Al Annaser. 18 Sep 2019. Sealed: 24 Sep 2019. TIZI-OUZOU

8. Boughni- Assi Youcef. 18 Sep 2019. Sealed: 24 Sep 2019TIZI-OUZOU

9. El Ayaida. 19 September 2019. Not sealed[3] ORAN

10. Ighzer Amokrane. 10 August, 2019. Sealed: 10 Sept. 2019[4]. BEJAIA

11. Akbou. 10 August, 2019. Sealed: 17 Sept 2019. BEJAIA

12. Boudjima. 6 August, 2019. Sealed: 6 August 2019. TIZI-OUZOU

13. Boudjima. 22 May, 2019. Sealed: 22 May & 6 June, 2019. TIZI-OUZOU

14. Aït Djemaa. 14 November, 2018. Not sealed[5]. TIZI-OUZOU

15. Al A’keed Amroush or Rikki. 11 July 2018. Sealed: 14 July 2018. BEJAIA

16. Maatkas. 26 May, 2018. Not sealed. TIZI-OUZOU

17. Ait Mellikeche. 25 May, 2018. Sealed: 25 May, 2018. BEJAIA

18. Al-Azagher. 2 March, 2018. Sealed: 16 October, 2018. BEJAIA

19. Tiaret. January 2018. Not sealed[6]. TIARET

20. Sidi Bel Abbès. January 2018. Not sealed[7]. SIDI BEL ABBES


[1] Church first closed by a Governor order, end of October 2017. Then re-opened in 10 June 2018. Governor filed a court case in 08 August 2019. [2] In January 2018, this church was notified that it should regularise its situation within three months. But a closure order was issued by the Governor on 19 February. The church was sealed. It was reopened in 10 June 2019. On 19 Sep. 2019 the Governor of Oran filed a court case against the church. On 12 Jan. 2020 the court issued a verdict confirming the closure of the church. [3] This church in the province of Oran, was among three churches (1, 2 and 9 in the list) closed in Nov. 2017 and reopened in June 2018. [4] On 26 August 2019 the Gendarmerie came to seal the church. After the Christians occupying the building refused to leave and a lawyer disputed the legality of the order to seal the building the Gendarmerie eventually left without sealing the church. A meeting has been held on 27 August 2019 between EPA leaders and provincial authorities, who promised to raise the matter to the Governor. Without giving an answer, the church was closed on the date mentioned above. [5] A court order was issued to close the church at the designated date. The verdict was appealed. But the court of appeals confirmed the closure and informed the EPA in February 2020. [6] This is a church that met in someone’s private home and therefore the authorities could not seal the building. But they have ordered them not to meet for prayer. [7] This is a church that met in someone’s private home and therefore the authorities could not seal the building. But they have ordered them not to meet for prayer.

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