Up to 1,000 churches of various denominations have been shut down by authorities in Angola, on the western coast of Africa.
A new law determines that churches can only operate if registered with the government. To register they must be able to prove they have at least 100,000 faithful, and pastors are only allowed to preach if they have a degree in theology.
The law has especially affected small and unaffiliated Protestant churches in this Portuguese-speaking country, many of which have their roots in other African countries, or in Brazil.
The crackdown has been going on for a few months now but picked up speed in the weeks before Christmas. Francisco de Castro Maria, director of religious affairs at Angola’s Ministry of Culture, told Vatican News: “Over 50 per cent of the churches in our country are foreign, mostly from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Brazil, Nigeria or Senegal. These new rules are the result of a long struggle against the establishment of new religious cults in Angola, which began in 2013.”
There are reports of dozens of pastors being arrested, many in the restive enclave of Cabinda, where there is a strong movement in favour of independence. They are charged with persistently opening their churches following the enforced closure, thereby breaking the law.
The Catholic Church in Angola has not taken a stand on the law, but one bishop who asked not to be identified said that the bishops tended to support the measure as a way to curb the expansion of what he said were mostly cults, many of which were only after money and caused social instability.
“But we must be careful not to create martyrs unnecessarily,” he added, stressing that the Church was watching cautiously and condemned any use of violence in the operations. “There are rumours that the Catholic Church is behind the law, but that is not true,” he said.
Having been unable to sell in churches for well over a year due to the pandemic, we are now inviting readers to support the Herald by investing in our future. We have been a bold and influential voice in the church since 1888, standing up for traditional Catholic culture and values.
Please join us on our 130 year mission by supporting us. We are raising £250,000 to safeguard the Herald as a world-leading voice in Catholic journalism and teaching. For more information from our chairman on contributing to the Herald Patron's Fund, click here
Make a Donation
Donors giving £500 or more will automatically become sponsor patrons of the Herald. This includes two complimentary print/digital gift subscriptions, invitations to Patron events, pilgrimages and dinners, and 6 gift subscriptions sent to priests, seminaries, Catholic schools, religious care homes and prison and university chaplaincies. Click here for more information on becoming a Patron Sponsor. Click here for more information about contributing to the Herald Patron's Fund