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Gaddafi stirs up Islamists against “Chri...

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Gaddafi stirs up Islamists against “Christian” forces

Country/Region: Libya

Under fire dictator Muammar Gaddafi is portraying Western military intervention in Libya as a religious crusade in a bid to get “all Islamic armies” to defend him against the “Christian” West.

Colonel Gaddafi
Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi

As coalition forces step up pressure on the colonel with sustained air strikes, he is using increasingly religious rhetoric to denounce the action and harness support for his regime. Gaddafi said at the weekend that he was defending Libya’s land and dignity against America, France and Britain, “the Christians that are in a pact against us”. On state television he promised a “long-drawn war” and claimed, “We have Allah with us, you have the devil on your side.”

Then, on Tuesday night, in his first public appearance since the coalition began enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya, Gaddafi said there was a “new crusader battle launched by crusader countries on Islam” and issued this rallying cry to supporters:

Long live Islam everywhere. All Islamic armies must take part in the battle, all free [people] must take part in the battle.

Consequences for Christians

The comments raise alarm for Libya’s small and vulnerable Christian community, who may become revenge targets of Gaddafi supporters’ anti-Western wrath. Christians in Muslim countries are generally associated with the West, which puts them in heightened danger at a time of Western military intervention. This has been the case in Iraq since the 1990-1 Gulf War, where Christians have been targeted in violent attacks and, as a result, hundreds of thousands have fled the country.  

The Church in Libya is composed almost entirely of expatriates, mainly from sub-Saharan Africa; many of them are likely to leave the country as the fighting intensifies. They have generally enjoyed the freedom to worship without harassment under Gaddafi, but evangelism among Muslims is strictly forbidden, and Libyan converts from Islam to Christianity are often vulnerable and isolated. Fear of government infiltrators discourages them from meeting together, and those who make contact with foreigners put themselves at further risk – a danger that will only be exacerbated in light of the hostility to foreign military intervention in Libya.

Invoking Islamists

Gaddafi’s comments seem intent on provoking an Islamist response to the Western intervention in Libya, both within the country and from outside. During his years in power the colonel has clamped down hard on militant Islamism, but he has now threatened to join forces with al-Qaeda. He said, “If they [the West] behave with us as they did in Iraq, then Libya will leave the international alliance against terrorism. We will then ally ourselves with al-Qaeda and declare a holy war.”  

This danger comes at a time of growing Islamist influence in neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt, following the revolutions that ousted their respective dictators. Exiled Islamist leaders have returned to these countries to great popular acclaim, while Islamist parties are preparing to stand in forthcoming elections.

Gaddafi has long aspired to spread Islam throughout Africa, with dreams of a single Muslim government for the continent or a United Islamic States of Africa. And though the version of Islam exported by Libya has not been extreme, he now appears to be appealing to more radical elements in a bid to harness support against Western opposition to his regime.

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

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  • On this Good Friday, give thanks to God for the death of Christ and for His gift of eternal life. Praise Him too for the example of those Christians who have persevered in their faith at the risk of their lives and who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of Christ and the Gospel. Pray that their martyrdom will inspire their suffering brothers and sisters in Christ to endure whatever hardships befall them and will convince their persecutors of the truth and power of the Gospel. Pray too that their bereaved families and churches will not grieve without hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Fri, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Cry out to the Lord for Christians in the Central African Republic (CAR) who have been driven from their homes by the violence that has engulfed their country. Attacks by Islamist Séléka militants and retaliation from “anti-balaka” militias has generated a huge humanitarian crisis in which around two million people, many of them Christians, are in need of emergency assistance. Give thanks for the work of Barnabas partners who have been providing food rations to hundreds of displaced believers in the capital, Bangui, and distributing food, medicines, clothing and seeds to thousands in various regions. Pray that the aid will reach those who need it most, and that the Lord will comfort the relatives and friends of the thousands who have been killed in the fighting. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Thu, Apr 2014 00:00

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  • Pray for a church leader in Sri Lanka, S.S. Johnpillai, who was threatened at gunpoint by attackers who claimed to be Special Forces officers. The minister was in a hut next to his church building in Guadalupe, Trincomolee when, he said, the men “appeared out of nowhere”. The intruders put a gun to Johnpillai’s head and accused him of holding a Communion service in honour of the founder of the Tamil Tigers, the government’s opponents in the country’s long and bloody civil war. The government had that day made it a criminal offence to commemorate the group. The gunmen ignored Johnpillai’s protests that he had not dedicated Communion to the group’s founder, and they threatened to shoot him. Ask the Lord to support and strengthen Johnpillai as he recovers from this terrifying ordeal. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Apr 2014 00:00

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