The Catholic Church in Algeria announces with regret the closure of all charitable activities and facilities of Caritas Algeria from October 1st, 2022. This “complete and definitive” closure is announced in a communiqué from the Archdiocese of Algiers, signed by Archbishop Paul Desfarges, Emeritus of Algiers and President of the Algerian Diocesan Association. The communiqué, written in a formal style, simply states that the measure was taken at the request of the Algerian authorities. “Of course,” the text says, “the Catholic Church remains true to its charitable mission at the service of brotherhood,” namely “in connection with all people of good will”.
The communiqué quotes the introduction of the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together, signed on February 4, 2019 in Abu Dhabi by Pope Francis and Sunni Sheikh Ahmed al Tayyeb, Grand Imam of Al Azhar: “Faith leads a believer to see in the other a brother or sister to be supported and loved. Through faith in God, who has created the universe, creatures and all human beings (equal on account of his mercy), believers are called to express this human fraternity by safeguarding creation and the entire universe and supporting all persons, especially the poorest and those most in need”. “The Catholic Church”, concludes the communiqué signed by the Archbishop Emeritus of Algiers , “I would like to thank all those who, over the years and in different ways, have contributed to the realization of this work at the service of the most vulnerable and the Algerian people”.
The decision to stop the activities of Caritas Algeria was taken by the responsible Algerian authorities without giving a detailed official justification to the bishops of the Catholic Church in Algeria. Local sources told Fides that Caritas was probably the subject of these restrictive measures because it is considered a foreign non-governmental organization. All Interior Ministry communications made general references to the fact that the Catholic Church was allegedly “covering” an unauthorized organization engaged in “illegal” activities, without giving specific references to any articles of the law allegedly violated.
However, representatives of the local Catholic community rule out that the measures imposed by the Algerian authorities are fueled by feelings of hostility towards the Catholic Church and its presence in the country. Rather, they see a connection with the general policy of restrictions that have recently been imposed on foreign and multinational NGOs. The Algerian authorities have not taken into account the uniqueness of Caritas as the charitable arm of the Catholic Church, a uniqueness that distinguishes it intrinsically and “by law” from non-governmental organizations, including those working in the field of humanitarian aid and assistance are active.
Caritas Algeria’s initiatives were designed and implemented to benefit the most vulnerable sections of the Algerian population, 97 percent of whom profess Islam. Caritas Algeria has always dealt with the phenomenon of migrants and above all supported sick people and minors with transparent aid programs.