Religious freedom advocates warn that church closures are ‘wrong direction’ for Algeria

The closure of several Christian churches in Algeria, as well as court convictions of Christians for undermining Muslim beliefs, are causes for concern, a United States religious freedom watchdog warns.

“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,” Nadine Maenza, chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, said June 23.

In March, the Oran City Court of Justice upheld a five-year prison sentence against Hamid Soudad, a 42-year-old Christian father of four who allegedly insulted Islam’s prophet Mohammed by reposting a cartoon on his Facebook page.

On June 6 pastor and bookstore owner Rachid Mohamed Seighir was sentenced by a court in Oran for “printing, storing, or distributing materials that can ‘shake’ the faith of a Muslim.”

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