Libya’s interim constitution (2011) declares Islam the state religion and sharia (Islamic law) the principal source of legislation, but guarantees non-Muslims the freedom to practise their religion and prohibits religious discrimination. The internationally recognised Government of National Accord’s (GNA) policies contradict these claims. It seems either unwilling or powerless to investigate crimes against religious minorities.
The Christian presence is mainly comprised of foreign migrant workers and refugees, but there are also a small number of indigenous Libyan converts. Islamists target Christians for killing, kidnap, forceful conversion and sale in “modern-day slave markets”.
Violence against Christian refugees held in detention centres is commonplace. Most of the refugees are from West African countries or Eritrea, attempting to reach Europe. At Eastertime 2019 militias attacked the Qasr bin Ghashir detention centre and opened fire on Christian refugees gathered for prayer, killing two and injuring up to 20. A tuberculosis outbreak at the Zintan detention centre in 2019 killed 22 people, mostly Eritrean Christians, but there was no provision for non-Muslim burials, so the bodies were packed into refrigerators for months.
The country has been wracked by chaos and civil war since Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown in 2011, with two major factions claiming legitimacy. Parliament, based in Tobruk in the east, has refused to recognise the GNA, which controls western Libya; the powerful Libyan National Army only recognises parliament.
Militant Islamist groups, thought to number nearly 2,000 in 2016, have built a strong presence in the country since the fall of Gaddafi. Several thousand IS fighters moved to Libya when ousted from Syria. In 2019, Turkish militias were deployed to support the GNA and in January 2020, the Turkish parliament authorised sending troops to Libya.
A ceasefire agreed in January 2020 did not hold, and a proxy war continued. Another ceasefire was agreed in August and another in October.
Ask for the protection of Christians, especially converts from Islam. Pray for an end to the modern-day slavery of migrants. Pray for lasting peace, justice and stability.
The above content can also be found in the Praying for the Persecuted Church (2021-2022) booklet