Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh
When a person in Libya leaves Islam to follow Christ, they face immense pressure from their families to renounce their faith. Their neighbors and the rest of the community ostracizes them, and they can be left homeless, jobless and alone. If a Libyan Christian shares his or her faith with someone else, they will likely be reported, arrested and perhaps face violent punishment. The country has no central government, so laws are not enforced uniformly, leaving Christians in danger of overt and public persecution. Targeted kidnappings and executions are always a possibility for believers. To be a “safe” Christian in Libya is to live a secret life of faith.
Islem (name changed) lives in a country in North Africa similar to Libya. She saw a Christian woman praising and thanking God on television, and it set her on a path to learn who this Jesus was: “In Islam, we ask God for things, but we never thank Him.” Today, she is growing in Christ—but in deepest secrecy. While she cannot reveal her faith even to her family members (they would not accept her), she still says, “Jesus is like oxygen, because without oxygen you cannot breathe … No matter what happens in my life, I can’t leave Jesus.”
Unfortunately, the situation in Libya remains the same this year as it has for many years, due in large part to the lack of a central governing authority to break the cycle of armed conflicts in the country. Systemic persecution of anyone who turns from Islam is condoned and expected in Libyan society. Lack of legal protections and changing rules of property ownership have meant even “approved” expatriate congregations that have met in a facility for decades can suddenly face eviction for no reason other than the new owner wants to use the property.
Christians are vulnerable throughout Libya, whether they live in the country, are passing through for migrant work, or are trying to reach Europe to start a new life. Extremist groups have established checkpoints and control specific areas of the country. Christians who move from area to area looking for work are just as likely to end up in one of the country’s overcrowded detention centers as they are to find jobs. In some cases, Christians who are apprehended are delivered, instead, to criminal officials or human trafficking groups where they are forced into heavy labor or pushed into prostitution.
Open Doors works with local partners and churches in North Africa to raise prayer support, training and literature, and advocate for justice for believers. Direct support of persecuted believers through job assistance and provision for practical needs is also key.