According to the well-informed Libya Herald, four Egyptian Christians were kidnapped by unknown armed assailants, while traveling from Tripoli to the Egyptian border.
According to the Libya Herald, “they were in a vehicle with three other Egyptians, all Muslims, and had just passed through Sirte when they were stopped at a checkpoint. Armed men asked to see the passengers’ papers and passports. Then they began asking each passenger about his religious beliefs.”
According to one of the other passengers, when the armed men realized that four of the Egyptians were Christians, they forced the Christians to get out of the car, and ordered the driver to leave with the other three men. One of the passengers and the driver tried to ask what was going to happen to the victims. The abductors became angry and began to threaten them, demanding that they leave immediately.
When the remaining passengers reached Egypt, one of them informed the family of the victims. According to a human rights group, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also been notified and has promised to take action.
The four men have been identified; they are brothers Jamal Matta Hakim, Rafat Matta Hakim, and Romani Matta Hakim, and the son of their cousin, Adel Sadiki Hakim.
Fierce fighting between warring militia groups is on the rise in Libya. This is partially due to the weak national government which has been unable to control the violence in the country. Several foreign Christians have been killed this year, and many foreign workers have been forced to leave the country because of the security situation.
Open Doors recognizes this incident is a result of the current instability in the country. The position of national and foreign believers has been rapidly deteriorating since last year, making this the most difficult North African country in which to be a Christian. In the absence of the rule of law, violence against Christians has increased. Previously, the main source of persecution was the government and its secret services; now, it is Islamist extremist movements, such as the Salafists. Most Christians are afraid to meet with other believers, as any kind of non-Islamic religious gathering for Libyans is forbidden; ex-pats can have their own churches, but Libyans are not allowed to attend.
Father, we pray for these four men, the Matta brothers and their cousin Adel; that they might be returned safely to their families. We pray for an end to such incidents and for justice to rule. We pray also for other Libyan and foreign Christians in the country; that in their isolation, You will protect them and provide for ways to fellowship and worship with other believers. Teach them how to be Your ambassadors in a land that is hostile to Christ and His followers. We pray for the extremists; that Your Holy Spirit might confront them with the truth of Christ, and that they might lay down their swords and seek peace. In the name of Jesus, who hears the cries of His people and is their strength in times of weakness, Amen.