Algeria is a religiously tolerant nation that will never encroach on the rights of non-Muslims to worship, Religious Affairs Minister Bouabdellah Ghlamallah told participants at an Algiers seminar on Wednesday (February 10th).
Under the banner of "Religious Worship: A Right Ensured by Religion and by the Law", the February 10th-11th conference convened representatives of several religions and government officials to ease relations after a Christian church was attacked and desecrated in Tizi-Ouzou in December 2009.
Emphasising Algeria's long history of religious acceptance, Ghlamallah declared that the country is "receptive to all religions" and pointed to a February 2006 law that protects the right of Christians and Jews to practice their faith.
Algeria has "never closed down a single church", the minister told participants. "Rather, Christians were ensured the right to practice their religious rights freely and peacefully in the designated places, and in accordance with the act regulating the practice of religious rites issued in 2006."
The defiled Protestant church had defied orders by the government to shut down, as it was not registered properly.
Christians, both Catholic and Protestant, account for less than 1% of the Algerian population, according to recent statistics. The Ministry of Religious Affairs officially alloed representation of Judaism in July 2009, and allowed 25 synagogues to open their doors.
Catholic Archbishop Dr. Ghaleb Bader, also at the symposium, affirmed that religious tolerance does exist in Algeria, but urged Algerian legislators to revisit the details of the February 2006 Act on religious freedom.