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With Libya in Turmoil, Concerns Grow Over Christian Minority

ICC Note:

“There is concern about Libya’s tiny Christian community amid reports that hundreds of anti-government protesters have been killed as demonstrations spread to the northern African nation’s capital Tripoli,” Bos News Life reports.

2/22/2011 Libya (BosNewsLife) – There is concern about Libya’s tiny Christian community amid reports that hundreds of anti-government protesters have been killed as demonstrations spread to the northern African nation’s capital Tripoli.

“It seems that a lot of people in that area want change. The issue is: what kind of change do they want, and what kind of change will come?”, said Paul Estabrooks, a minister-at-large for the respected advocacy and aid group Open Doors, which has close contacts with Christians facing persecution, including in Libya.

He spoke before witnesses said that in Benghazi, the eastern Libyan city where the protests started, some in the security services switched sides and were now taking up the anti-government banner of the protesters.

There have been similar scenes, hundreds of kilometers away, including in the capital Tripoli. At least over 200 people have been killed in clashes with feared security forces, according to rights group Human Rights Watch.

Yet, with communications difficult, Estabrooks said it remains unclear to what extent Christians were actively pushing for the overthrow of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, who was to appear on state television early Tuesday as his faltering 40-year regime showed more signs of crumbling.

Libya however is also facing Islamic extremism and analysts have suggested it remains unknown whether a new leadership would allow more religious freedom. “The chances are even slimmer there for change,” than in neighboring Egypt or Tunisia, where protests toppled leaders, Estabrooks told broadcaster Mission Network News. “The only thing might be in a more democratic type of government, an opportunity for minorities to be better protected.”

Estabrooks said devoted Christians, including former Muslims, are forced to operate mostly underground. Christian converts from Islam, he added, are often harassed or arrested by the police with no legal recourse. “Because their communities are small, it’s perhaps less likely for them to become public about their attitude and desire for change.”

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