ibya’s interim constitution (2011) declares Islam the state religion and uses sharia as the principal source of legislation, but claims to guarantee non-Muslims the freedom to practise their religion and prohibits religious discrimination. The UN-backed Government of National Accord’s (GNA) policies contradict these claims. The government seems to be 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 what the UN’s International Organisation for Migration (IOM) calls “modern-day slave markets”. Most of the refugees hail from West African countries or from Eritrea, attempting to reach Europe via Libya.
Violence against Christian detainees, including sexual assaults, is commonplace. In December 2018, a mass grave containing the bodies of 34 Ethiopian Christians martyred in 2015 by Islamic State (IS) was discovered. After being ousted from the northern coastal city of Sirte in 2016, IS moved into the deserts of southern Libya.
The country has been beset by chaos and civil war since Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown in 2011, with two major factions claiming legitimacy. Parliament, based in Tobruk, has refused to recognise the GNA and the powerful Libyan National Army (LNA) only recognises the authority of the parliament. An estimated 2,000 militant Islamist groups, including IS, have filled the power vacuum and built a strong presence in the country.
Late in 2019, Turkish and Syrian militias were deployed to support the GNA. A ceasefire was agreed during peace negotiations in Germany on 16 January 2020. A few days later, countries with an interest in Libya, including Russia, France and Turkey, agreed to an arms embargo provided the ceasefire holds.
Ask for the protection of Christians in Libya, especially converts from Islam. Pray that the ceasefire will hold, bringing lasting peace, justice and stability. Pray for an end to the modern-day slavery of migrants and ask that they will not lose heart as they fix their eyes on God.