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Libya’s Christians Endangered by Islamist Militias, Lawlessness

ICC Note: Although Libya's indigenous Christians were assimilated or annihilated during previous waves of Islamic expansion, the Church has been continually present since Roman times. Libya has almost 100,000 Christians, but they have been in  great danger since the Western-assisited Islamists overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Now, their situation in Libya is described as "precarious."

11/5/2013 Libya (IRIN) - Various Christian communities in Libya, as well as some Muslim groups, have been feeling increasingly under pressure from hardline Islamist groups since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in October 2011.

“The level of security remains precarious for all foreigners, especially for Christians, because of the presence of some fundamentalist Islamic groups,” Giovanni Martinelli, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Tripoli, told IRIN.

“It is a new phenomenon that emerged during elections last July,” he said.

Nearly all Libyans are Sunni Muslims; members of other religious groups tend to be foreign residents, though Christianity has maintained a presence since Roman times.

“I think the [recent] arrests of Egyptian Christians do certainly seem to highlight a mounting issue,” said Joe Stork, deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa division.

“There are different things going on and underlying this are two problems; firstly a problem of lawlessness and the absence of a well-functioning law-enforcement or justice system, and secondly I think there’s a real order problem with the militias.”

The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) issued a statement last week saying it deeply concerned by recent incidents, including violence against a Coptic Christian church and other religious buildings, as well as attacks on the media.

“The universal values of tolerance, moderation, and respect for differences are deeply rooted in Libyan society’s religious and cultural heritage,” said Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General Tarek Mitri.

“These values should be the foundation upon which the new Libya is built.”

During Gaddafi’s 41-year rule the government’s surveillance network kept a tight lid on religious extremism and thousands of radical Muslims were imprisoned, but many helped overthrow Gaddafi, forming armed militia groups across the country.


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