(Open Doors Worldwatch list)
Leader: Chairman Nouri Abusahmen
Population: 6.5 million (35,000 Christians)
Main Religion: Islam
Government: Provisional government
World Watch List Rank: 13
Source of Persecution: Islamic extremism
The situation for Christians deteriorated in 2013, making this the most difficult North African country in which to be a Christian. In an absence of the rule of law, violence against Christians has increased. Previously, the main source of persecution was the government and its secret services. Now it is Islamist extremist movements such as the Salafists. Most Christians are afraid to meet with other believers, as any kind of non-Islamic religious gathering for Libyans is forbidden; expats can have their own churches, but Libyans are not allowed to attend.
- That God would strengthen and encourage isolated and secret believers
- For those working to reach Libyans through TV, radio and internet programmes
- For stability and good government in Libya; persecution of Christians has been observed to flourish in ‘failing’ states.
Under the despotic rule of Muammar Gadhafi, the situation for Christians in Libya was already extremely harsh. Expat Christians, who are mostly temporary workers from neighboring African countries, enjoyed some freedom. Black and non-Arab Africans faced racism. Immediately after the revolution, it was difficult for them as they were seen as possible mercenaries working for Gadhafi.
During Gadhafi’s reign, Libya did not have a real constitution. There was a book with some legal prescriptions called the Green Book, but in practice Gadhafi’s will was law. The feared and omnipresent secret police made sure that restrictions on the organisation of church activities and distribution of Christian literature were enforced and evangelism was criminalized. Under Gadhafi’s regime, the state was the main source of oppression of Christians. The main persecution agents today are the Christians’ direct family and community, fanatical armed groups (including Salafists), and, to a minor, extent the government. To bring in Arabic Biblical Scriptures remains strictly forbidden. This is another factor that suppresses the growth of the indigenous church. Proselytizing of Muslims and missionary activity is officially prohibited in the country, where much anxiety remains despite the demise of Gadhafi’s much feared security forces.
Because of the oppression caused by the intolerance of the society and the relatives, Libyan Christians hardly dare to inform others about their faith. Many of them are (considering) fleeing their homeland. One of the problems male converts are facing is in finding a partner to marry, caused by religious differences. The country adheres to traditional Islamic law which states that a non-Muslim man must convert to marry a Muslim woman.
The government claims that all citizens are ‘Sunni Muslim’ by definition. This is coupled with broad prohibitions on any sort of independent political association, preventing citizens from identifying themselves as members of any religious or political group. There are a number of secret police organisations and spy networks that are constantly watching those designated as subversives. Foreigners, too, are closely followed. The overall situation makes evangelism in Libya virtually impossible. It is not likely this will change when the country’s new Constitution is adopted-will this ever happen??
A country steeped in history. Simon of Cyrene who was forced to carry Christ’s cross was probably a Libyan.