Regional Information

Libya: Persecution of Christians

Information from Annual Survey for 2013

 

There were several incidents during 2013 of expatriate Christians being forced to leave, including:

q  In January an expatriate pastor and several Christian communities in the eastern province of Cyrenaica chose to leave, including the Franciscan Sisters of the Child Jesus located in Marj. Likewise, during February a number of Catholic communities of nuns in several towns in Cyrenaica province chose to leave the country due to concerns about security for expatriates. One group located in Benghazi, capital of Cyrenaica province, chose to remain.[1]

q  During February five Egyptians and three western Christians were arrested in Benghazi. One, Sherif, was a business man running a bookshop and the others were business and social associates. The Egyptians were mistreated whilst detained, and on 10th March one of them, Ezzat, died of his injuries. The others were released in mid-April following a discreet international campaign on their behalf.[2]

q  On 4th March a group of 43 Egyptians were deported to Egypt. They had reportedly been detained by Ansar Al-Sharia (see below) on suspicion of proselytising. Claims for higher numbers of expelled Egyptians were made on-line. On 14th March a further group of five Egyptians were deported. They had been kidnapped in early March by Ansar Al-Sharia.[3]

 

There were also a few incidents during 2013 of violent attacks on Church property and priests within such property.

q  On 28th February a priest and his assistant were assaulted inside a Coptic Orthodox church building in Benghazi. On 14th March there was an arson attack on the same church building.[4]

q  On 2nd March a lone gunman entered the Catholic Cathedral in Tripoli and fired two shots at a priest. Both bullets missed.[5]

q  On 17th May a bomb was placed at the entrance to the Catholic Church building in Benghazi. It caused damage to the entrance to a corridor that leads to a courtyard where the actual Church is located. A number of local people attended Mass the next day in solidarity with the church, its priest and the few nuns remaining in the area.[6]

 

On 5th December 2013 Ronnie Smith, a US citizen, was shot dead in Benghazi while undertaking a morning run. He was working as a teacher in a secondary school. He left a wife and child, who were in the US at the time of the murder. It is understood that the murder was not religiously motivated.

 

Open Doors World Watch List:[7]

 

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

Ranking

13

17

26

25

22

25

23

26

22

Score

?

60

42.0

41.0

42.5

41.0

42.5

39.0

41.0



[3] MidEast Christian News; 15th March 2013; http://www.mcndirect.com/showsubject.aspx?id=43605#.UlfkQRA2-io; checked 11th March 2013 (subscription required)

[4] Reuters; 14th March 2013; http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/14/us-libya-church-idUSBRE92D10720130314; checked 11th October 2013

[7] This is an indication of how each country compares with others and how it is changing from one year to the next. The assessment is based on a questionnaire that assesses both structural issues and specific incidents. Further details are available from the World watch List’s website (e.g. http://www.worldwatchlist.us/). MEC contributes to the information gathering used in the compilation, though the assessment and ranking is Open Doors’ alone. For the ranking, the lower the figure the greater the persecution in the country relative to others. In contrast, the higher the score (which is out of 100) the greater the persecution of Christians in the country concerned. The methodology used was changed during 2012, making cross-year comparisons of the scores less meaningful.

 

Latest Requests

  • Iraq: Update on the situation of Christians in Mosul

    Posted on 18th July 2014

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, the eternal Rock

     

    Christians in Iraq, especially from the city of Mosul, continue to face great difficulties. They have request renewed prayer for their country at this time of turmoil and hardship.

     

    Earlier this week the militant group in control of Mosul, the 'Islamic State' (IS, previously known as ISIS) summoned Christian leaders to a meeting on 17th July to notify them of Islamic rules to be applied to non-Muslims. Christian leaders did not attend this meeting. Consequently, it was announced that remaining Christians should leave the city or else face execution. They were ordered to leave all property behind. The ultimatum was initially set for noon today (18th July) but was then extended by 24 hours.

     

    It is believed that most Christian families have now fled from Mosul, many to areas of Northern Iraq under Kurdish control. Reports have suggested that some fleeing families were stopped at checkpoints by IS militants who confiscated belongings including money, jewellery and mobile phones.

     

    Earlier this week, the IS marked houses belonging to members of minority communities with the phrase "property of the Islamic State" including inhabited houses. Christian houses were marked with the letter 'N' for Nazarite.

     

    Iraqi Christians urge us to pray, asking that:
    a. Christians in Iraq, and especially from the Mosul area, will know the peace of Jesus, the guidance of the Spirit and the protection of the Father
    b. The displaced families will find sanctuary and that humanitarian assistance would reach all who are in need.
    c. Peace will be restored and that those displaced, including Christians, would be able to return to their towns.
    d. A peaceful and permanent political solution would soon be found, enabling all Iraqis to live in safety and prosperity.

     

    May be circulated to general mailing lists, outside organisations, and quoted from freely in reports citing "Middle East Concern" as the source of the information.

     
  • Iraq: Abducted nuns and orphans released unharmed

    Posted on 15 July 2014

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, the Good Shepherd

     

    As Christians in Iraq continue to request prayer for their country, they rejoice in good news concerning two nuns and three orphans in their care who were abducted in Mosul on 28th June by Islamic militants.

     

    The nuns and orphans were released on Monday 14th July. According to the Chaldean Patriarch, no ransom was paid for their release, all are in good physical health and they were treated well during their abduction.

     

    The two nuns had disappeared on 28th June close to the Chaldean Monastery of Maskenta in Mosul. The nuns live and work in an orphanage attached to the Monastery. They were accompanied by two girls and a young boy from the orphanage. It is widely assumed that they were held by militants from the extremist group ISIS that seized control of Mosul and surrounding areas in early June.

     

    Chaldean and other church leaders continue to express grave concern for the future of Iraq's Christian communities. Similarly, other non-Sunni communities in areas controlled by ISIS fear for their future. In recent days there have been reports of atrocities against Yazidi communities, the appropriation of land belonging to Christians and members of other minority communities, and the further removal of statues and religious symbols.

     

    Iraqi Christians are grateful for our prayers and give thanks for the safe release of the five Christians. They request continued prayer, asking that:
    a. The nuns and orphans will know the comfort, healing and peace of Jesus and the protection of the Father as they adjust to their new circumstances
    b. Iraqi Christians will know the guiding wisdom of the Spirit and the protection of the Father
    c. Violence will cease, peace will be restored, those displaced (including Christians) will be able to return to their homes, and the clear rule of law will be established equally for all throughout Iraq
    d. Those in authority locally, together with the international community, will ensure that humanitarian aid reaches all those in need.

     

    May be circulated to general mailing lists, outside organisations, and quoted from freely in reports citing "Middle East Concern" as the source of the information.

     
  • Iran: Update on house church members and leaders imprisoned for their faith in Christ

    Posted 8th July 2014

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, the Good Shepherd

     

    Iranian Christians have requested our prayers following developments in the long-standing cases of three house church members detained for their faith in Jesus.

     

    Mohammad Roghangir and Suroush Saraie were arrested on Saturday 5th July 2014 in Bandar Azali in northern Iran. It is believed that they have been taken to Shiraz prison in order to serve sentences handed down in July 2013.

     

    Recall that on 12th October 2012 seven believers were arrested in a raid on a prayer meeting in Shiraz. Mohammad and Suroush were among them. Although they were released from detention on 19th March 2013, they were then tried on 16th July 2013. Mohammad was sentenced to six years in prison and Suroush received two and half years. They remained at liberty pending an appeal which was subsequently rejected.

     

    The leader of an associated fellowship, Abdolreza Haghnejad (also known as Matthias), was also arrested on 5th July. Security officials raided his home in Rasht and confiscated Christian materials, including Bibles. He has yet to be charged.

     

    In May 2011 Abdolreza and a number of other believers were acquitted of charges that included propaganda against the state. Abdolreza was tried again on 8th April 2012 and the judge ruled, on the basis of the previous acquittal, that there was no case against him. On 22nd August 2013 there was a new Tribunal hearing in Rasht at which he faced charges of actions against national security.

     

    Even after release, former prisoners continue to experience hardship. In some cases those released prisoners have been pressurised by security officials to become informers. Many former prisoners suffer psychological trauma and some have struggles in areas of marriage and family relationships.

     

    Iranian Christians request our prayers that:
    a.  Mohammad and Suroush will experience the Lord's support during this time of imprisonment
    b.  Abdolreza and his family will know the Lord's presence and support
    c.  Those who have been released will be know his physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual healing, and experience his strength and enabling as they and their families adapt
    d.  All prisoners in Iran will be treated with respect and dignity, as beings created in the image of God
    e.  All officials involved will love mercy, act justly, learn about Jesus and choose to follow Him.

     

    May be circulated to general mailing lists, outside organisations, and quoted from freely in reports citing "Middle East Concern" as the source of the information.

     
  • Sudan - Update on Christian sentenced to death, released and detained again

    Posted on 27th June 2014

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

     

    On 25th June we requested further prayer for Meriam Yahia Ibrahim, who remained in a police detention centre, accompanied by her family. They had been detained at the airport and prevented from leaving the country on 24th June, the day after the Appeals Court had overturned her conviction and death sentence for apostasy.

     

    We are pleased to report that Meriam was released from the detention centre yesterday (26th July) at about 9.30pm local time after the Attorney General accepted a guarantor for her conditional release. She and her family are now at the US Embassy.

     

    Allegations that Meriam had used false travel documents and had given false statements are being investigated. Meriam's lawyers expect to have a meeting with the Attorney General on 29th June to hear whether charges will be filed against her. The family had attempted to leave Sudan using a travel document issued by the Embassy of South Sudan, as the husband holds South Sudanese nationality (as well as US citizenship). The Embassy of South Sudan has attested to the validity of the travel document.

     

    There remains a possibility that the Attorney General will appeal the verdict that acquitted Meriam of apostasy, once that verdict is issued in written form.

     

    Christians supporting this family thank us for our prayers and rejoice that Meriam has been freed once again. They request our continued prayer that:
    a. Meriam, Daniel, Martin and Maya will know the peace, presence and comfort of Jesus
    b. The investigation will be concluded soon, with no further charges brought against Meriam
    c. The family will be allowed to leave Sudan and will know the Spirit's clear guidance for their future
    d. Christians across Sudan, and especially those from Muslim backgrounds, will know the Father's protection, the Son's peace and the Spirit's wisdom
    e. All officials involved will love mercy, act justly, learn about Jesus and choose to follow Him.

     

    May be circulated to general mailing lists, outside organisations, and quoted from freely in reports citing "Middle East Concern" as the source of the information.

     
  • Iran: Update on imprisoned pastor beaten and taken to an unknown location

    Posted on 27th June 2014

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, the Good Shepherd

     

    On 10th June we requested prayer for Pastor Behnam Irani, imprisoned in Iran since May 2011, who had been transferred from prison to an unknown location

     

    On Monday 23rd June, Behnam was returned to his cell at Ghezal Hesar prison in Karaj. Family and friends are grateful that his whereabouts are now known again and that they are able to visit him.

     

    Recall that on the 7th June Behnam was summoned to appear before the head of a revolutionary tribunal in Karaj. He was taken by force to the head of the revolutionary tribunal before being transferred to an unknown location. It was reported by fellow prisoners that Behnam suffered beatings at the hands of intelligence officials during this operation.

     

    Behnam was sentenced to six years in prison in 2011 on charges of offences against national security. He has been badly treated during his imprisonment and his health suffered to the extent that he needed an operation in February to stop internal bleeding.

     

    However, the whereabouts of eight Christians who were arrested on Easter Sunday (18th April 2014) remains unknown. According to a report by the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), Ehsan Sadeghi, Nazi Irani, Maryam Asadi, Ali Arfa`, Vahid Safi, Enayat Safi, Amin Mazloumi and another person were arrested during a raid by security forces on a church in southern Tehran. Three of the detainees are of Afghan origin. The families have been told that a military organisation conducted the arrests and that no communication with family members would be allowed until interrogations had been completed.

     

    Iranian Christians request our prayers that:
    a.  Behnam and his family will know the Lord's presence and support
    b.  He will experience God's physical healing during this time of incarceration
    c.  The eight missing Christians and their family and friends will know God's protection and peace
    d.  Prisoners in Iran will be treated with respect and dignity, as beings created in the image of God
    e.  All officials involved will love mercy, act justly, learn about Jesus and choose to follow Him.

     

    May be circulated to general mailing lists, outside organisations, and quoted from freely in reports citing "Middle East Concern" as the source of the information.