Who Will Save Algeria’s Closed Churches: the UN, US, or Hirak?

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World body challenges North African nation over its treatment of Christians, while local evangelical leaders take heart in renewed protests.

Algeria’s Christians hope that a one-two punch may reopen their churches.

Last December, a letter from the United Nations asked the North African government to give account. And this week, popular protests resumed after crackdowns and a pandemic-related hiatus.

Two years ago, Protestants cheered when the Algerian Hirak (Arabic for movement) forced the resignation of then 82-year-old president Abdelaziz Bouteflika following his announcement that he would run for a fifth term in office. Protests continued, however, as the ruling clique was slow to make changes.

“Hirak supports human rights, and I have no doubt they will help the churches,” said Youssef Ourahmane, vice president of the Algerian Protestant Church (EPA). “And the letter from the UN shows something else is wrong, and now they will have to deal with it.”

The seven-page missive’s language reads like a teacher scolding a recalcitrant student.

“Please explain in detail the factual and legal basis that justified the closure of the 13 places of worship and churches,” stated the letter, written in French. “Please provide information on the re-registration procedure of the [EPA], and explain the reason why this has not been finalized to date.”

Signed by three UN experts specializing in the freedom of religion and belief, peaceful assembly, and minorities, the now-open letter represents the latest chapter of international advocacy for the persecuted Protestants of Algeria.

The nation ranks No. 24 on the Open Doors World Watch List of the most difficult countries for Jesus followers. Only three years ago, it ranked No. 42.

“2020 was a very difficult year for us Protestants, who have been deprived of our places of …

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