http://www.themedialine.org/news/news_d ... wsID=20908
Algeria Closes 2 Churches for 'Missionizing'
Written by Yaniv Berman
Published Monday, March 17, 2008
The Algerian authorities have ordered the closure of two Protestant churches in the northern district of Tizi Wazou, in order to investigate alleged "illegal activities," the Algerian daily Akhbar Al-Yawm reports.
"They are trying to establish a minority, which might give foreign powers a pretext to intervene with Algeria's domestic affairs," Minister of Religious Affairs Bu 'Abdallah Ghoulamullah told reporters.
The authorities in Tizi Wazou have also summoned Protestant clergymen for investigation. The decision was taken in full cooperation with the security authorities, in order to find out if these churches have broken the law, Ghoulamullah said.
Recently, the Algerian media began investigating the alleged growth of Christianity in the country. A recent report by the local daily Al-Khabar indicated that Christians in Algeria were engaged in missionizing Muslims. According to its report, more than 3,000 Algerians from Tizi Wazou have recently been converted.
Ghoulamullah also stated that Evangelists were offering €5,000 (about $7,700) to any Muslim who converted, according to Mission Network News.
An anti-conversion law was passed in 2006. Violators face a five-year jail sentence and a one million-dinar fine (about $15,000) for anyone who tries to convert Muslims to other religions.
The International Religious Freedom Report 2007 issued by the United States State Department indicates that there are 3,000 members of Evangelical churches and 300 Catholics living in Algeria, mostly in the northern districts.
In addition, the report states that a significant proportion of the country's Christian foreign residents are students and illegal immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa seeking to reach Europe. Their numbers are difficult to estimate, the report says.
The recent campaign against Christian churches in the country has also led to an Algerian court order against U.S.-born Reverend Hugh Johnson, president of the Protestant Church in Algeria. The court ordered Johnson to leave the country by March 11.
According to Ghoulamullah, the order had nothing to do with Johnson's involvement in missionizing activities.
"His visa expired," Ghoulamullah explained.
Johnson has lived in Algeria for 45 years and has headed the Protestant Church there since 2006.