Christians in Libya Face Safety Concerns
ICC Note: Escalating pressure on Christians in Libya is driving some of the faithful from their communities. Catholic nuns in three communities are leaving the country because of threats by radical Islamists, Voice of America reports. And, even more concerning, four foreign Christians were arrested in Benghazi last week on charges of proselytizing and printing Christian literature. According to Father Dominique Rezeau, there were as many as 100,000 Christians in Libya before the 2011 revolution that toppled Muammar Gaddafi. “Now only a few thousand remain.”
By Jamie Dettmer
2/18/2013 Libya (VOA) - Questions of safety for Christians are being raised in Libya. Three communities of Roman Catholic nuns are leaving the country because of threats from radical Islamists. And four missionaries were arrested over the weekend for distributing religious literature.
During the weekend, four Christians - a Swedish-American, an Egyptian, a South African and a South Korean - were arrested in the eastern city of Benghazi on suspicion of proselytizing and distributing religious literature.
If they are found guilty of charges leveled against them, they could face the death penalty.
Two communities of Roman Catholic nuns have left eastern Libya, a hotbed of Islamic fundamentalism, after threats from Islamists.
French-born priest Father Dominique explains:
"What happened is that the sisters, the religious sisters, three communities thought it was better for them to go, to leave. Two communities left already and one is going to leave [soon]. They received some threats, you know, and they heard about, they saw some people going around and talking to them in a way that they could think maybe their life could eventually be endangered."
They are not the only Christians who have faced threats - or worse.
In December, two Egyptian Copts were killed in a bomb blast at a Coptic church in the Mediterranean town of Dafniya. Assailants broke in and burnt icons in September at St. George’s Greek Orthodox Church. And shots were fired last May, narrowly missing the priest. An Italian cemetery in Tripoli has been vandalized.
Despite the incidents, Christians still worship at the handful of churches in Tripoli and Benghazi.
Before the fall of Moammar Gadhafi two years ago, there were an estimated 100,000 Christians in Libya, nearly all of them foreign workers mainly from Egypt, the Philippines, Africa and India. But there are probably half that number now.