Protests began on February 15, 2011 against the totalitarian Gaddafi regime. Soon, the protests escalated into a civil war. In March 2011, the NATO began an intervention in the conflict. Strengthened and supported by the NATO, the opposition movement gained control over most of the country. On October 20, 2011 Gaddafi was arrested and killed. After the rebel victory, stability was still absent from the country. Several armed groups began fighting each other. This year, the self-proclaimed Islamic State became an important power in the country.
“The source of persecution has changed. This is the biggest change for Libyan Christians. In the beginning of 2011, the main oppressor was the government of Gaddafi. After the dictator fell from power, Islamic extremism became the main persecutor of the local church,” says Open Doors worker Charley.
“The political chaos and lawlessness has resulted in danger for expat Christians,” Charley explains. Many foreigners, among them tens of thousands of Christians, live in Libya because of their jobs. In many cases, these migrants had problems finding work in their own country and they came to Libya to do the work that Libyans themselves don’t want to do, such as construction, garbage collection or street cleaning.”
Because of this year’s killing of dozens of Egyptian and Eritrean Christians in Libya by groups linked to the self-proclaimed Islamic State, many Christians have fled the country. “Some Christians probably choose to flee the country in the small boats that make almost daily attempts to escape from Libya to Europe,” says Charley. “Many might have returned to their own countries, but I also hear of people who have already returned to Libya because they were unable to find work in their own country. These people prefer being able to support their families with the money they earn in Libya and so take the risk of living in Libya.”
The migrant churches in Libya continue to hold their meetings. There are no reliable statistics about how many of these Christians have left the country. The number of Muslim Background Believers is growing according to Charley. “We now believe there are between 150 and 180 Libyan believers,” he says. “This is a result of evangelism via radio, television and internet.”
Open Doors supports the church in Libya through discipleship and leadership training, distribution of Christian books and literature, and follow-up work with people who are interested in the gospel. Please continue to keep the church in Libya in prayer.