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Religious freedom commission hits Algeria on treatment of Christians

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John Burger - published on 06/24/21 - updated on 06/24/21

USCIRF concerned about sentences for blasphemy and proselytizing.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) this week condemned several court decisions in Algeria that restrict Christians’ religious freedom in the country.

“Recent decisions by Algerian courts to sentence Christians accused of blasphemy and proselytizing to multi-year prison sentences and to seal Protestant churches that have been forcibly closed demonstrates the country is headed in the wrong direction,” said USCIRF Chairwoman Nadine Maenza.

Christians in Algeria have faced significant challenges in recent months, USCIRF said. Citing media reports, the commission said that:

  • On March 22, the Oran City Court of Justice upheld a five-year prison sentence issued against 42-year-old Christian Hamid Soudad for insulting the Prophet Mohammad. 
  • On June 6, a court in Oran sentenced city pastor and bookstore owner Rachid Mohamed Seighir to one year in prison for “printing, storing, or distributing materials that can ‘shake’ the faith of a Muslim.” 
  • On June 4, an administrative court in Oran ordered the physical sealing of three Protestant churches that had been forcibly closed by the government in 2020. The appeal to the closures is ongoing.

“These court decisions are blatant attempts to deny Algerian Christians their right to freedom of religion and belief,” said USCIRF Commissioner Frederick A. Davie. “We encourage U.S. government officials to attend the appeals for these rulings to demonstrate our firm commitment to religious freedom for Christians and all religious minorities in Algeria.”

In its 2021 Annual Report, USCIRF recommended that the State Department designate Algeria for its “Special Watch List” for engaging in or tolerating severe violations of religious freedom pursuant to the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA).

In 2020, the Pew Research Center said that authorities in Algeria had detained several Christians for violating a ban on proselytizing by non-Muslims.

Tags:
Christians in the Middle East
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