Algerian churches cautiously reopen
The unexpected reopening of three churches in Algeria following months of increased pressure on Christians provoked surprise and some suspicion last week.
The governor of Oran Province issued a notice allowing Protestant churches in the cities of Oran, Ain Turk, and El Ayaida to reopen June 10, according to World Watch Monitor. He did not provide a reason for reopening the churches. Barnabas Fund reported authorities had closed two of the churches in February because they allegedly lacked approval.
A 2006 law requires all non-Muslim churches to obtain permission from a national committee, but International Christian Concern noted the committee has never met.
Pastor Rachid Seghir of the Oran city church told World Watch Monitor he found it difficult to believe his church could reopen. He said it was such a surprise, he thought, “Maybe it’s just a trap.” He added, “We are very pleased to be able to resume our activities without fear of new threats. We hope that all churches can be regularized and able to work in peace and freedom. Such a thing can only be beneficial to the image of the country.”
Middle East Concern reported the governor’s permission did not grant those churches official registration, so they remained at risk while other churches are still closed. —Julia A. Seymour
Al-Qaeda still holding Christians in Mali
The al-Qaeda branch in Mali released a proof-of-life video of two female hostages captured in separate kidnappings more than a year ago.
The U.S.-based monitoring group SITE Intelligence confirmed last week that Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam (JNIM) posted the video on the Telegram extremist news site. The footage showed Colombian nun Gloria Cecilia Narvaez caring for French aid worker Sophie Pétronin. Extremists kidnapped Pétronin in late 2016 in Gao, Mali, while Narvaez was captured in February 2017 near Mali’s border with Burkina Faso.
In the video, which Pétronin said was recorded June 7, she tells her son she is “very, very exhausted.” Narvaez thanked Pope Francis for showing interest in her case and pleaded for Pétronin, who she said was “truly sick.” Extremist groups in Mali target Westerners and demand ransoms after holding them for years. In March 2017, the terror groups Ansar Dine, al-Qaeda, and al-Mourabitoun merged to form JNIM. —O.O.
U.S. advocates for imprisoned Iranian lawyer
The U.S. State Department last week said it was “deeply concerned” over the latest arrest of an Iranian human rights lawyer who represents women. In the statement, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Iranian authorities on Thursday arrested Nasrin Sotoudeh from her home and took her to Evin Prison, Tehran’s notorious political detention center. She faces two national security charges for representing women who protested the country’s hijab law, according to the Center for Human Rights in Iran. Authorities first arrested Sodouteh in 2010 and banned her from practicing law after convicting her of spreading propaganda and conspiring to harm state security. “We call on Iranian authorities to release her immediately, along with the hundreds of others who are currently imprisoned simply for expressing their views and desires for a better life,” Nauert said. —O.O.