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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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    • Heavenly Father, we pray for Kim Jung-Wook, a South Korean Christian who has been sentenced to hard labour for life in North Korea for “spying” and attempting to establish house churches in the country. We thank You that although prosecutors demanded the death penalty, this was commuted, but we pray that Jung-Wook will be sustained by You in his imprisonment and cruel treatment and will soon be released. We pray too for the dozens of North Koreans who were detained after Jung-Wook’s arrest in October on suspicion of helping him, and for the families of any who have already been executed. We pray for political change and religious freedom in North Korea, that it may be made legal to be a Christian and to take part in Christian activity. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 9 hours ago

    • Two Christian families in Uzbekistan who meet in a private home to read the Bible and pray together have been repeatedly fined and had property confiscated. Alisher Abdullayev and Veniamin Nemirov were originally fined in 2012 for unregistered religious activity and teaching religion “illegally”. They refused on principle to pay, claiming that they had not violated any laws. But earlier this year bailiffs went to their homes and confiscated a car, a mobile phone and household items. The men and their wives were then fined again, ten times the minimum monthly wage. Officers have also raided one of their meetings, filming and harassing those present and seizing religious literature. Pray that the authorities will stop targeting the families and that they will be left alone to study and pray in peace. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Sep 2014 00:00

    • Leaders imprisoned for up to 60 days and members for up to 45 days; fines, corrective labour or community service: these are the penalties for taking part in religious gatherings in Kazakhstan held without state permission, according to a new criminal code. Those who finance unregistered religious activity will be liable to the same punishments as leaders. In addition, a new Code of Administrative Offences lays down a wide range of penalties for exercising the right to religious freedom. Both codes have been condemned by 119 Kazakh and international human rights groups and individuals. They further tighten controls on religious practice in a context where it is already much restricted. Pray for wisdom and courage for Christians in Kazakhstan as they seek to maintain their worship and witness. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Sep 2014 00:00

    • Give thanks that 55 Christians, almost all church leaders and converts from Islam, received Bible training at a three-day seminar in Kyrgyzstan that was supported by Barnabas Fund. The participants have virtually no access to Biblical training, and so the studies were a great boost to their faith and ministry. Meeting fellow church leaders, who are all dealing with similar issues, such as isolation and persecution from Muslim relatives and local Muslim communities, was also very encouraging to them and gave them the opportunity to build up a Christian support network. Pray that the Lord will continue to speak to them through the Bible passages they studied at the seminar, and that He will bless their ministries. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sun, Sep 2014 00:00

    • Christians and other minorities in Burma (Myanmar) are extremely concerned about a proposed religious conversion bill that will require people to seek permission from the authorities before changing religion. It is part of a package of four bills designed to “protect race and religion” in the Buddhist-majority country. The government says it is intended to prevent forced conversions. The draft says that forcing someone to convert would be punishable by a year in prison, while insulting another religion would be punishable by between one and two years in prison. Similar laws in force in several Indian states are used to threaten legitimate evangelism by Christians and as a pretext by Hindu militants to attack Christians, whom they falsely accuse of forcibly converting people. Pray this bill will not become law in Burma. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sat, Sep 2014 00:00

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