The archbishop of Algiers, Mons. Ghaleb Bader, has asked that the law that regulates the exercise of religious worship other than Muslim in Algeria be revoked or at least revised.
“Why not return to a situation of normality? Is it not time to revise this law, to annul it?” said Bader during a meeting on the freedom to worship, organised by the Algerian Ministry of Religion.
The law of February 28, 2006, obliges “anyone who practices any religion that is not Islam to set up a religious association” and to ask for “permits for the celebration of ceremonies that must be held in authorised venues”. Anyone who “attempts to convert a Muslim to another religion, forcing them or using methods of seduction” risks from two to five years in prison and fines of up to 10,000 euros.
The Christians of Algeria are scattered in different zones of the country where there is often no church. For this reason “it is necessary to not restrict the practice of worship in set venues,” explained Bader, quoted by the press, asking why “if Muslims welcome Christians who have converted to Islam, the same cannot be done by Christians”.
For the minister of Religion, Bouabdallah Ghlamallah, the law “does not target any religion”, but it was simply created “to organise the sector”. “We are not pursuing Christians,” he said although returning to the issue of the proselytism that the Evangelical-Protestant communities are accused of.
“We don’t want”, he added, “there to be religious minorities that become a pretext for foreign powers to enter into the internal affairs of the country”.
Between 2007 and 2008, the protestant communities, and in particular the Evangelical ones, were at the centre of a real “witch hunt”. Numerous Algerians who had converted were tried and sentenced on accusations of proselytism.