“The war has hit hard Christian communities in Tripoli, which include African migrant laborers, Filipino health care workers and European expatriates,” The Associated Press reports.
4/17/2011 Libya (AP) – With most of his flock having fled Libya’s violence, Tripoli’s Roman Catholic bishop now focuses on keeping the power struggle between Moammar Gadhafi and anti-government rebels out of his church.
But it’s getting harder.
After a recent Mass, several Muslim women, all Gadhafi supporters, followed Bishop Giovanni Martinelli into the vestry, tearfully demanding that he call the Vatican to get the pope to halt NATO airstrikes.
Some of his parishioners, especially African migrant workers, have been using his St. Francis Church as a sanctuary, saying they dread going into the streets because they are frequently stopped and harassed by Gadhafi’s security forces.
The war has hit hard Christian communities in Tripoli, which include African migrant laborers, Filipino health care workers and European expatriates, among them foreign women married to Libyan men. Libya is an overwhelmingly Muslim country, and missionary activity is not allowed, though clergy say the regime has respected Christians’ freedom of worship.
Martinelli said his flock of 100,000 in the greater Tripoli area has dwindled to about 5,000. The Greek Orthodox community has shrunk from around 1,000 to fewer than a dozen. The Union Church is down from 1,200 to 250 parishioners.
Some of those who stayed, especially Africans who lack proper papers, said they rarely leave their homes these days because Tripoli is full of checkpoints, part of the clampdown by Gadhafi’s forces to prevent anti-government protests.
Lucky John, 30, a Nigerian parishioner at St. Francis, said the forces often stop migrants and check their passports and the sim cards on their mobile phones.