Christians in Libya are now facing the realities of regime change, with prayer that things will be better for them under the Libyan Transitional National Council (TNC), than under Muammar Gaddafi. Someone speaking for the TNC has announced Sharia law will be the “basic source” of all law under liberation, so it is doubtful Libyans will fare any better than Coptic Christians in Egypt, where the hardline Muslim Brotherhood has taken control. Noo surprise, as 97% of Libyans are Muslim. In the video below you’ll hear that all Christians in Libya are considered “foreigners,” with no true Libyans being Christian.
Approximately 60,00 Coptic Egyptian Orthodox Christians reside in Libya, along with 40,000 – 50,000 Roman Catholics, who are mostly Italians. Those estimates were before the 2011 “revolution,” which killed some 30,000 people – unknown how many of the dead are Christians. Yes, there are evangelicals in Libya, as well.
After a recent Mass, several Muslim women, all Gadhafi supporters, followed Bishop Giovanni Martinelli into the vestry, tearfully demanding that he call the Vatican to get the pope to halt NATO airstrikes.
Some of his parishioners, especially African migrant workers, have been using his St. Francis Church as a sanctuary, saying they dread going into the streets because they are frequently stopped and harassed by Gadhafi’s security forces.
The war has hit hard Christian communities in Tripoli, which include African migrant laborers, Filipino health care workers and European expatriates, among them foreign women married to Libyan men. Libya is an overwhelmingly Muslim country, and missionary activity is not allowed, though clergy say the regime has respected Christians’ freedom of worship.Martinelli and the head of the five other churches in Tripoli — all led by foreign clergy with congregations made up almost entirely of foreigners — have staked out a cautious middle ground in the conflict that has split Libya into a Gadhafi-controlled west and a rebel-run east.
This article at CatholicNewsAgency (February 2011) puts the number of Catholics in Libya at 80,000, considerably higher than the estimate above, but says that many church members were forced to leave the country when the 2011 civil war began.
The Catholic population is made up entirely of foreigners or migrants and “most of them are illegal” immigrants, he said in an e-mail to CNA on Feb. 28.
In addition to serving as vicar general, Fr. Farrugia is the parish priest of the African and non-Filipino English-speaking community at St. Francis Catholic Church in Tripoli. He also works with the French, Maltese and Italian ex-patriot communities.
Church members come from many parts of the world, including Korea, India and Poland. The majority, however, come from sub-Saharan Africa and from the Philippines.
Christianity in Libya goes back to the time of Christ, most notably to the Simon of Cyrene, Libya, who many believe helped Christ carry his cross to Calvary Hill, or was forced to do so. In Catholicism, Simon’s act is the seventh Station of the Cross. What Simon did, or did not do, or what he was forced to do, is disputed. More here.
From The Word:
Matthew 27:32 – As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his cross.
Mark 15:21 – A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross.
Luke 23:26 – As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.
Libya is mentioned in the Bible numerous times:
Ezekiel 30:5 – Cush and Libya, Lydia and all Arabia, Kub and the people of the covenant land will fall by the sword along with Egypt.
Acts 2:10 – Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome
Acts 11:20 – Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. [Libyans bringing the Gospel to Antioch!]
Acts 13:1 – Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul.
If you appreciate controversy, read all of Ezekiel 30. It is fairly short and riveting.
CBN has the transcript of the video below with interviews of Christians living in Libya. Muammar Gaddafi was considered fairly tolerant of Christianty. Here is what “tolerant” meant to the dictator:
Under Gadhafi, foreign Christians who shared their faith with Muslims were either jailed or expelled from the country.
Gadhafi — for the most part — expressed tolerance for foreign Christians if they remained in their churches. He allowed regular worship and the reconstruction of some old church buildings in major cities like Tripoli and Benghazi.
Few church buildings are seen elsewhere.
As a matter of fact there isn’t much of a Christian presence that is visible at all except in the city of Tobruk. There is a French military cemetery honoring fallen Christian soldiers from World War II.
Each headstone cross in the cemetery reinforces the long-held Libyan belief that only non-Libyans are Christian.
Even the Egyptian coptics CBN News spoke with share that understanding.
“No Libyan Christians, zero. No one,” said Dr. Magdy.
Having said that, in the video you will see a report of a Muslim woman who converted to Christianity after see programming on satellite television.
Moving away from Libya, most Sundays I hope to interest readers in the work of my favorite Christian blogger, Carl Middleton. This week he is talking about the Book of Enoch. Enoch is said to be the grandfather of Noah. The oldest portion of The Book of Enoch goes back to 300 BC. While Enoch is not a part of our Bible, some believe Jude quoted him in the New Testament. Some early church supporters believe he spoke of Christ, but other Church leaders of that time denied that Enoch was the recipient of divine inspiration. See Carl’s interesting discussion here.
Prayers for Libya and praying blessings for peace and comfort to my readers.
Christian Church in Libya (video)