Algeria is a Mediterranean crossroads. Many populations have succeeded one another; some settled there for centuries and mixed with the indigenous populations, others were just passing through. Judaism has existed there continuously since antiquity, before the advent of Islam, which has been present in North Africa since the 7th century. Algeria had an Ibadite kingdom – that of the Rustumids – in the 8th and 9th centuries. A Shiite regime also governed between the 10th and 12th centuries. Unlike Judaism, Christianity disappeared after the Islamisation of the Maghreb in the 12th century and reappeared again with the French conquest. However, very few conversions of Muslims to Christianity were recorded during colonization. 


In 1998, the Algerian government submitted a report to the Human Rights Committee in which it recognized that the majority of religions present in Algeria were Sunni Islam, Ibadism, originally practiced in the Mzab region, as well as Catholicism, Protestantism and Judaism. There are no official statistics on the number of members of majority and minority religions. However, some reports, most notably those of the American Commission on International Religious Freedom, indicate that nearly 99% of the total population is comprised of Sunni Muslims, while 1% of the population is Ibadis, Christians, Jews, Shiites and Ahmadis. The report also indicates that Christian groups include Roman Catholics, Seventh-day Adventists, Methodists, members of the Église protestante d’Algérie (EPA), Lutherans, the Reformed Church, Anglicans and Egyptian Coptic Christians. 


Today, even though there are still some Jews, we cannot speak about of a Jewish community, due to the two successive waves of departure (at independence and during the civil war) and to the lack of place of worship (the synagogues have been closed since the civil war by the government for security reasons).

During the French colonization, the bishopric of Algiers was created in 1838, followed by those of Oran, Constantine and Hippone in 1866. The Catholic Church lived under the colonial regime and the dioceses were attached to the Church of France until independence. In 1964, the Churches of Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Libya were constituted as the Regional Episcopal Conference of North Africa (CERNA). Today, the Catholic Church has full recognition by the state. It has been existing through the diocesan association of Algeria since 1976. Its places of worship and meeting places are approved. Its presence and action are recognized in the public space. On major feasts (Christmas, Easter, Pentecost), it even has airtime for nationally broadcast masses

The Catholic Church is organized into four dioceses: Algiers, Oran, Constantine and Laghouat-Ghardaïa. 


As for Protestantism, although its presence dates back to the colonial period through the existence of missions, there is no direct link between it and the evangelical Protestants of today, who have been mainly Algerian since the 1980s. At the independence, the majority of the missions left Algeria. In 1963, the 16th district of the Reformed Church of France became the Reformed Church of Algeria. In 1972, it merged with the Methodist Church and the other churches and missions to form the Eglise Protestante d’Algérie (EPA). In 2011, the Ministry of Interior has given its approval for the modification of the executive board of the national association of EPA. The EPA said it still had not received responses from the Ministry of Interior to their 2012 and subsequent applications to reregister according to the law of associations. From 1972 to 2008, the EPA was led by an American pastor. Since then, EPA has been represented by Algerians. 


Shiites and Ahmadis are non-recognized religious minorities. If the former keep a low profile, Ahmadis were convicted between 2016 and 2017 for worshipping in an unauthorized place, belonging to an unlicensed association, and for blasphemy.


Article 2 of the Algerian Constitution states that Islam is the official state religion. The  last constitutional revision (2020) repealed the clause on freedom of conscience. Article 52 states that freedom of opinion is inviolable. Freedom of worship is guaranteed and is exercised in accordance with the law (Article 51). The constitutional text adds a paragraph stating that "the State shall ensure the protection of places of worship from any political or ideological influence". It is interesting to note that protection is no longer afforded to freedom of worship (culte) alone, as provided for in the 2016 Constitution, but to that of cultes (in plural). In this article, the Constitution refers to the law n° 06-09 of 17 April 2006 fixing the conditions and rules for the exercise of religions other than Islam. This 2006 law imposes two conditions on the collective worship of non-Muslim religious minorities, which can only be organized as religious associations and only in a place of worship recognized by the State. This law penalizes also proselytism in the aim of converting a Muslim to another religion. It should be noted that conversion is not criminally sanctioned. 


Unlike other countries, Algeria has a unified judicial system and one family code applying to all citizens. Nevertheless, some articles relating to marriage, divorce, child custody and inheritance discriminate against non-Muslims. 

      Zohra Aziadé Zemirli




General information on minority issues (including some references to religious or belief ones) can be found at the page devoted to Algeria in Minority Rights Group International, Minorities and Indigenous People in Algeria   

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Aït Abdelmalek Z. (2004). Protestants en Algérie. Le protestantisme et son action missionnaire en Algérie aux XIXe et XXe siècles, Lyon, Éditions Olivétan

Dirèche K. (2011). Mondialisation des espaces néo-évangéliques au Maghreb. Controverses religieuses et débat politiques, Méditerranée, n. 116, 59-65, 

Direche-Slimani K. (2010). Chrétiens de Kabylie, 1873-1954. Une actionnaire missionnaire dans l’Algérie coloniale, Réghaïa, ENAG

El-Mestari D. (2011). Le discours religieux des manuels scolaires algériens de l’éducation islamique dans le cycle secondaire, Tréma (revue internationale en sciences de l’éducation et didactique), 70-80, 

Henry J.R., Moussaoui A. (eds.) (2020). L’Église et les chrétiens dans l’Algérie indépendante. Études et témoignages, Paris, Karthala

Saaidia O. (2015). Algérie coloniale. Musulman et chrétiens: le contrôle de l’État (1830-1914), Paris, CNRS Editions

Saaidia O. (2020). Les catholiques d’Algérie: minorités d’hier et d’aujourd’hui, Les Cahiers d’EMAM. Études sur le Monde Arabe et la Méditerranée, 

Zemirli Z.A. (2019). Quelle place pour le pluralisme religieux dans le mouvement de protestation algérien de 2019?, L’Année du Maghreb, 91-104, 

Zemirli Z.A. (2020). Le status juridique des non-musulmans en Algérie. L’exemple des évangéliques et des ahmadis, Paris, L’Harmattan

Zemirli Z.A. (2022). Algériens non musulmans: statut juridique et rapports avec l’État, CAREP, 

Zemirli Z.A. (2022). La diversité religieuse dans l’attribution du droit de garde en droit algérien, Revue du droit des religions, 109-123,



Data source: Todd M. Johnson and Brian J. Grim, eds., World Religion Database (Leiden/Boston: Brill, accessed August 2021)
Religion Pop 2020 RM Pct% 2020 Total Pop.
Catholics 6.500 0.01%  
Protestants 11.400 0.03%