By Justin Dorman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
TRIPOLI, Libya – Earlier this month, smoke billowed from Benghazi’s Coptic church, but it had nothing to do with the coming of a new pope. A group of jihadist militants set the church on fire while the church’s priest was still inside. Some local Muslims rushed in to save the priest, but the church was successfully scorched. Do not expect the church to be resurrected this Easter, because currently any action that can be perceived to threaten Islamic culture is being met with plenty of hostility in Libya.
Hide your bibles, hide your faith, because the Islamic militants and Office of Preventive Security are getting every Christian. Whether a Coptic Christian or one of the Greek Orthodox faith, it has been recommended that you keep your Easter celebration low key. While many Muslims in Libya are very friendly with their Christian neighbors, others get very offended by anything non-Islamic.
Besides the burning of Benghazi’s Coptic church, there was a bombing of a Coptic church in Misrata killing two, and a shooting of a Greek Orthodox priest outside of his home. Additionally, at least fifty-one Christians, forty-nine of which were Copts, have been arrested. One of the Copts died while being held in detention. An evangelist warehouse was also raided, which resulted in the seizure of approximately fifty-five thousand Bibles and Christian tracts.
The surviving arrested Copts were released as a “diplomatic gesture.” Preventive security commander Abdul Salam Barghathi was amazed that the bibles were being printed in the city of Benghazi and that they were even being given to children.
The official causes of the arrests have come under charges of proselytizing and spreading Christian literature. Barghathi said that, “Libya is 100 per cent Muslim, we don’t have Christians and Jews, and nobody will accept any other religions.” He added that, “anything that comes from abroad can be an invasion against our ideas and our thoughts, which can be a danger to homeland security.”
Reverend Vasihar Baskaran of Tripoli’s Christ the King church stated that, “we usually celebrate [Easter] with pomp, but I said no. . .I thought it was better not to attract the attention of bad elements. I told the congregation: when the service is finished, don’t stand in the churchyard and drink tea on the church steps.”
An Egyptian Christian living in Benghazi, Meged Labib, said that she will have her Easter services in her home since her priest has ran back to Egypt.
For further information, please see:
Scotsman – Libyan Christians Spending Easter in Fear – 30 March 2013
Bloomberg – Libya’s Christians Tense as Easter Celebrations Commence – 29 March 2013
Guardian – Christians in Libya Braced for Easter Trouble from Islamists – 29 March 2013
Radio Vaticana – Libyan Christians Prepare for Holy Week Amid Persecution – 25 March 2013