Pastor Rachid and Nouh were charged with ‘proselytising’ and selling books that ‘shake the faith of Muslims’, and given prison sentences. You answered their call for prayer, and now these prison sentences have been suspended - they continue to appeal the verdict.
Christians in Algeria continue to call for prayer for Pastor Rachid and Nouh, whose appeal against their conviction for 'proselytising' has failed. On 26 September, the regional court of appeals upheld a previous court verdict against Pastor Rachid and his bookshop assistant, Nouh. They are grateful to God that they received suspended sentences, but were seeking to have the verdict overturned.
Pastor Rachid leads the Oran City church (L’Oratoire) and also owns a book and stationery shop, where Nouh Hamimi works as a salesman. In 2017, police raided the bookshop, finding Christian books, publications (including Bibles) and printing machines. On 27 February 2021 both were convicted in-absentia of proselytising, as the bookshop contained books which were considered to 'agitate the faith of Muslims'. The law regulating non-Muslim worship criminalises ' … producing, storing, or disseminating printed documents, audiovisuals, or using any other means with the intent to undermine the faith of a Muslim'.
Pastor Rachid’s church, together with two other churches in Oran province, were ordered closed by a court on 6 June and were sealed on 7 July 2021. This brings the number of churches that have been sealed to 16. Four more churches have been told to cease all activities, but have not been sealed.
Pastor Rachid and Nouh will continue to appeal the verdict - please keep praying for them, and that the courts will be just.
8 June 2021
Pastor Rachid and Nouh were going to be sent to be prison for running a Christian bookshop - under a law that prohibits any books that might 'shake the faith of Muslims'. In Algeria, this is considered a serious offence - though there are signs that persecution is lessening in the country, Christians from a Muslim background still face intense opposition from their families, communities and government.
Following their postponed appeal trial, Pastor Rachid and Nouh have received one-year suspended sentences and a fine, rather than a two-year prison sentence. This is a wonderful answer to prayer! The men are grateful for the commutation of their sentence, but also intend to appeal the verdict in the high court, in the hope that the charge will be dropped completely.
1 June 2021
We have received a short update that Pastor Rachid and Nouh's trial has been postponed until 6 June. Please keep praying for these courageous men.
26 May 2021
On 30 May, Pastor Rachid Seighir and Nouh Hamami will hear their court verdict. Their crime? Running a bookshop that contains books which are considered to ‘shake the faith of Muslims’. In Algeria, this comes with a heavy potential cost – and the two men are waiting to hear if their appeal against a two-year prison sentence has been successful.
Pastor Rachid leads the Oran City church (L’Oratoire) and also owns a book and stationery shop, where Nouh Hamami works as a salesman. The bookshop was raided in September 2017, and the police found Christian books (including Bibles) and printing machines. An article in the law regulating non-Muslim worship criminalises ‘… producing, storing, or disseminating printed documents, audiovisuals, or using any other means with the intent to shake the faith of a Muslim’.
In February, Pastor Rachid and Nouh were convicted in absentia of ‘proselytising’ and sentenced to two years in prison and issued with a fine. Their appeal was heard on 16 May.
Following the raid, the Governor of Oran ordered that the bookshop be closed. Though this closure order has been deemed flawed by a court, the bookshop has still not been allowed to reopen.
This isn’t the first time that Pastor Rachid has had this experience. In 2008, another raid led to his conviction under the same charges – though he was acquitted on appeal.
Blasphemy convictions appear to be rising in Algeria, and in the past few months two other Christians have received prison sentences under these laws. In recent years, authorities in Algeria have engaged in a systematic campaign against EPA churches (Protestant Church of Algeria), which has seen 13 churches forcibly closed by the authorities. Others have received orders to cease all activities. It’s also illegal to use anything as ‘a means of seduction intending to convert a Muslim to another religion’ – which, in practice, is difficult to define and open to abuse.
There are some signs of hope for Christians in Algeria. The country fell seven places (to number 24) in the most recent Open Doors World Watch List, largely because substantially fewer incidents of violence against Christians were reported. On the other hand, churches that have been forced to close remain closed, and so the impact of previous years’ persecution is still being felt.
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