For the last three or so decades, people have been advocating for religious freedom and tolerance but if the recent on-goings in Algeria are anything to go by, that is but a pipe dream.
Last week, a judge handed a 35 -year old Christian father of two in northwest Algeria a suspended prison sentence and a hefty fine for holding worship at his house. The man, who requested anonymity as he fears for his life in the officially Muslim country was accused of organizing Christian worship in his home contrary to Algeria's religion law of June 2006, commonly known as the 03/06 law, which forbids non-muslim worship for unregistered churches.
According to the 03/06 law, churches must obtain the permission of a national committee to be registered, but this committee has never met, and no church request has been officially considered or approved, sources said.
The absurdity of the charges levelled against the man lay in the fact that he was accused and tried for contravening the 03/06 law by running an unregistered church yet the man only had prayers with a Christian couple in his home. It is not something that he had been doing consistently or in a bid to evangelise others. Where do you draw the line when it comes to practicing one's own faith?
Incredible but true, it was enough that a neighbor denounced him and accused him wrongly, and he is condemned, all because he welcomed a Christian couple to pray together,” said an area source, who cannot be identified for security reasons. “He is frightened and shocked by this accusation.”
Police had summoned the Christian for questioning several times. During these visits to the police station, the poor man had to endure terrible pressure and intimidation, though he was known as a man of peace,” he said.
Prosecutors had sought a six-month prison sentence and a fine of 500,000 Algerian dinars (US$4,200) for the 35-year-old father in Mostaganem, a coastal town about 350 kilometers (217 miles) west of Algiers. The judge instead delivered the two-month, suspended prison sentence and a fine of 100,000 dinars ($840) to the new Christian.
This judgment followed another where a judge fined the owner of a parcel of land for permitting a church to use it.
Prosecutors had sought a 500,000-dinar (US$4,200) fine and six months in prison for Amar Ait-Ouali, owner of the land where City of Refuge Church meets in Azaghar village near Akbou, for allowing a worship tent on the land after authorities closed the 300-member congregation’s church building on Oct. 16, 2018. The judge instead fined Ait-Ouali 50,000 dinars (US$420), Ait-Ouali said.
I’m not afraid of them, and all their intimidation is just wind,” Ait-Ouali said. “I have the right to be a Christian, and I also have the right to make my home and my land available to the church. All this is injustice. ”
His attorneys, a group of human rights lawyers, said they would appeal.
Header Image Credit: Zeepertje