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Algeria Orders Protestant Leader to Close All Churches (UPDATED)

(Update: Compass Direct News has posted a fuller account and analysis of the letter.)

On Sunday, the leader of Algeria's network of Protestant churches was ordered by local authorities (full text after the jump) to "close down throughout the country all the Christian worship places, which are not designated for religious purposes." The order implements a 2006 law restricting non-Muslim worship that has been irregularly enforced yet long given Algerian Protestants (who number between 10,000 and 100,000) great concern.

More than half of the North African nation's then-50 Protestant churches closed in 2008 following a wave of similar orders from local authorities. Other churches remained open in protest.

The 2006 law, Ordinance 06-03, requires that churches register in order to legally operate, yet Protestant leaders have tried for years to have their church applications approved by the government without success. The Algerian government restricts the worship of Muslims also, given fears of radicalism which fueled waves of domestic terrorism in the 1990s.

Full text of the police letter, sent to CT by an Algerian church leader, is after the jump:

The head of the EPA (The Algerian Protestant Church Association) has received the following order from the High Police commissioner in his town:

"On May 5th, 2011, a decision has been made according to article number 566/11, to close down throughout the country all the Christian worship places, which are not designated for religious purposes.

I, Mr Ben Salem, the high commissioner of the police in the Bejaia area, have informed Mr. Mustapha Krim, the President of the (EPA) Algerian Protestant Church Association. We have informed him to close down all the worship places around the country once for all, the places which are used now and the places which are under construction.

The decision has been made according to the article 03-06. The authorities will make sure that the order has to be obeyed and applied,otherwise severe consequences and punishments will be applied, according to article 97 and the law number 09-90, registered on 07-04-1999.

The high commissioner of the police authorities,

Mr. Amar Ben Salem

22nd May, 2011"

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