A Catholic priest in Algeria has been sentenced to a year in prison for praying with Christians in Cameroon.
Middle East Concern reports that Father Pierre Wallez is the first victim of legislation approved in March 2006, prohibiting anyone from leading a religious ceremony anywhere without permission from the government in Algeria.
Algerian Archbishop Henri Teissier told Vatican Radio: "the most surprising thing is that the conviction was issued simply because the priest visited a group of Christians in Cameroon. He had not celebrated Mass, but was only joining them in a prayer. It was December 29, a little after Christmas."
A tribunal has now modified the sentence to parole. But Christians in Algeria are concerned that their religious freedom is under threat.
Freedom of worship is purportedly guaranteed by the constitution of Algeria, but in recent months Christians there have faced increasing harassment and a hostile campaign in the media. In the same trial that sentenced Fr Wallez, a Muslim doctor was sentenced to two years imprisonment for using medications supplied by the Catholic Church's Caritas charity.
On 12 February three believers accused of insulting Islam were due to appear in court for sentencing. The case has been postponed to a later date, but delays often happen in such cases. The group been told they will be sentenced to three years in prison and fined 5,000 Euros.
Recently the government cancelled residency permits for Latin American Catholic priests working with Portuguese speaking African Christians in Algeria as migrant workers. Further requests made by the Catholic Church for visas for priests and other staff to visit Algeria are being systematically refused.
Middle East Concern say that Algerian Christians have requested readers' prayers
H/T Independent Catholic News