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Libya

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Islamist militants seized and tortured 50 Christians in the Libyan city of Benghazi
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Dennixo

It is becoming increasingly clear that Christianity is no more welcome in Libya after the Arab Spring than under the rule of Muammar Gaddafi before it. The churches are composed almost entirely of expatriate Christians, but many have left in the face of violent attacks and the growing strength of both political and militant Islamism.

On 24 February 2014, the bodies of seven Egyptian Christians were found on a beach on the outskirts of Benghazi. They had been rounded up by a group of suspected Islamists the night before, taken away at gunpoint and shot dead. The masked assailants raided the building in which the Egyptians lived, going door-to-door asking if the residents were Christian or Muslim before abducting the seven Christians, who were aged 17-25.

The very small number of indigenous believers, who are converts from Islam, suffer intense pressure from their families and communities and are severely isolated. Evangelism among Muslims continues to be prohibited in practice.

In 2013, around 50 Egyptian Christians were arrested in the Libyan city of Benghazi on accusations of sharing their faith. They were initially seized by Islamist militants, who shaved their heads and tortured them with beatings and electric shocks. One of them later died in prison. Their church was also attacked twice and their minister beaten up.

Although the Islamist Justice and Construction Party performed only moderately in the first general election in 2012, they have since been gathering support, and they played a decisive role in the selection of Libya’s prime minister. Meanwhile, North Africa is now troubled by numerous militias, armed and mobile, who are seeking to seize control of whole areas by military means. A growing Islamist insurgency is threatening Libya’s fragile security, and the government appears powerless to dislodge the militants from their strongholds in the east of the country. It has also proved unable to prevent attacks by Islamists on Christians and other minorities.

Libya was once a major seedbed for Islam in Africa, but the Islam that it promoted under Gaddafi was not extreme. However, there are now serious concerns that future political developments will see Islamists gain the ascendancy, leading to even greater oppression of Libya’s Christians.

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christian, persecution, charity, church, persecuted, sookhdeo, Islam

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    • The case of an Egyptian Christian man arrested following complaints by Muslim neighbours that he had been using his home as a church without a permit highlights the need of the Christian community for more places of worship. The 55-year-old man from Minya in Upper Egypt, where Christians are particularly vulnerable to persecution, was arrested once before, in 2011, for the same offence. Every church building in Egypt requires a permit, but these are notoriously difficult to obtain. Pray that the authorities will show leniency to the Christian man and that a provision in the new constitution addressing the issue of church buildings will be enacted. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Sep 2014 00:00

    • Kidnapping for ransom has been a persistent problem for the Christian community in Egypt amid the political upheaval and instability following the “Arab Spring” revolution of 2011. On 14 June, Wadie Ramses, a well-known surgeon, was seized in El-Arish. The assailants opened fire on his vehicle and took him away wounded. They later demanded a ransom of ten million Egyptian Pounds (£800,000; US$1.4 million) for his release. Two days later, Christian merchant Gemal Shenouda was captured near his home in the same city. It is thought that Islamic militants with links to al-Qaeda, who have been behind escalating violence in the Sinai region, are responsible for the kidnappings. Pray for the safe return of our two Christian brothers and that they and their families will know the Lord’s peace. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Sep 2014 00:00

    • On 18 June, Bishoy Armia Boulous (31) was sentenced to five years in prison and given a fi ne of 500 Egyptian Pounds (US£70; £40) for “disturbing the peace by broadcasting false information” in connection with reports he produced relating to anti-Christian violence in Minya for a Christian TV channel. His lawyer believes that Bishoy has been targeted because of his conversion from Islam. The Christian gained notoriety in Egypt in 2007 as the first person to try to change his religion on his ID card, a case that is still unresolved owing to the political tumult in the country over the last three years. Pray that the Lord will be Bishoy’s strength and shield (Psalm 28:7), and that he will soon be released. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sun, Sep 2014 00:00

    • “Saudi Arabia remains unique in the extent to which it restricts the public expression of any religion other than Islam.” In its annual report for 2014, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom highlighted the extraordinary restrictions faced by Christians and other non-Muslims in one of the most rigid and hardline Islamic states in the world. No churches exist in Saudi Arabia because of an Islamic tradition that Muhammad said there should be only one religion in the Arabian peninsula. Pray for peace and perseverance for the small number of Saudi converts and the many expatriate Christians practising their faith in this repressive context, and ask that the authorities will yield to international pressure to introduce greater religious freedom. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sat, Sep 2014 00:00

    • On 23 June, Vahid Hakkani, a Christian convert in prison in Iran, resumed a hunger strike in protest against the refusal of a court to grant him and two other Christians conditional release. Vahid had broken his previous strike in May after another of his fellow-detainees was set free. The prison authorities have reportedly confiscated his personal belongings from his cell and are denying him the right to make phone calls; they have also separated the Christian prisoners from one another. Even before his first hunger strike, Vahid had been suffering from a digestive problem and internal bleeding. Pray that his health may not fail altogether and that his action will secure justice and freedom for him and his friends (Psalm 69:33). Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Fri, Sep 2014 00:00

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