Algerian pastor and vice president of the Algerian Protestant Church (EPA) Youssef Ourahmane/ Chrześ, CC0.

Algerian Pastor Awaits Verdict on Second Appeal for His Conviction

Christianity’s long history in Algeria is threatened. Algeria uses a discriminatory law to crack down on religious minorities. As the government closes churches and slows down the registration process for religious groups, Algerian Christians are finding life increasingly difficult. 

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) confirms that Algeria is escalating repression of religious minorities. In particular, the government has targeted the Evangelical Protestant community by closing churches and raiding them, including two of the country’s largest Protestant churches. Open Doors International reports that only four out of 47 churches under the Evangelical Protestant Church of Algeria remained open at the end of 2023.

Azaghar church closed in Algeria. Credit: Church in Chains

Within Algeria, Christians account for under 1% of the 45 million population. That said, small house congregations are growing and continue to meet although the government mandates they can only have 10 people per gathering. The increased scrutiny has resulted in most of the house churches going underground. Church leaders who continue to hold services in Algeria are threatened and several have been arrested and prosecuted by the government. 

One case that has garnered the attention of religious freedom advocates around the world is Christian convert Pastor Youssef Ourahmane, a senior pastor who has been serving for over 30 years. He oversees a number of churches and Bible schools in Algeria. Since 2018 he has also served as the vice-president of the EPA (Église Protestante d’ Algérie), an association of 43 Protestant churches. In recent years all but one of those churches have been closed by the government.

One year ago (March 2023) Pastor Ourahmane was investigated because some Christians stayed in a church compound he oversees and that was closed by the government in 2019. The government did not inform him that he was being investigated for unauthorized religious assembly and holding worship in a building not designated for worship. In September he was fined and sentenced to two years in prison. After appeal, the sentence was reduced to one year. His second appeal took place this week and the verdict is pending.

Alliance Defending Freedom and other NGO’s are advocating for the acquittal and release of Pastor Ourahmane.