There are approximately 34,500 Christians in Libya – 0.5 per cent of a population of 6.7 million. But the number of Libyan Christians (rather than migrant workers from other countries) is very small – only about 150 believers.
What does persecution look like in Libya?
There is no freedom of speech, no freedom of religion and very limited possibility of public church life in Libya. Although there are around 34,500 Christians in the country, only a tiny number (approximately 150) are Libyan – the majority are expatriate and migrant workers.
Libyan Christians from a Muslim background face violent and intense pressure from their family and the wider community to renounce their faith. They – as well as foreign Christians – are also vulnerable to abduction or murder by Islamic militant groups and organized crime groups.
Sharing your faith publicly is illegal in Libya, and those who try to share their Christian faith with others risk violent opposition and arrest. Without a central government, the country is effectively in a state of lawless anarchy. There is little chance of legal justice when Christians are attacked or killed.
Christians migrating from sub-Saharan Africa are also vulnerable to being held in detention centres, being abused, tortured and extorted by those trafficking them. Believers are often forced into intense labour or prostitution.
Christians are at risk all over the country, but especially vulnerable in areas where Islamic extremist groups are present. Elements who have pledged allegiance to ISIS still maintain a presence in the wider region around Sirte. Other extremist groups are in control of areas in and around the capital, Tripoli. Expatriate Christians avoid traveling in general, but especially in areas where there might be checkpoints.
Christians who are migrating from other areas of Africa, aiming to reach Europe, are often held in overcrowded detention centres around Tripoli. Others are handed directly to criminal officials or groups by their human traffickers, and forced into intensive agricultural labour or prostitution.
An Egyptian working in Libya to support his family, Romany was kidnapped in 2020. Romany’s abductors beat him, trying to force a conversion to Islam. When he refused, they hanged him.
Meet Romany, a martyr for the faith.
“He was a very humble person and lived as an angel among us,” said the priest at St. Mary Coptic Orthodox church. “He was loved by all the church members. He was always smiling. He was brave person, he kept faith until the last breath, he was killed because of his faith in Jesus Christ.”Romany
What has changed compared to last year?
Violence continues to increase in Libya, and there are more verified incidents of attacks and killings. Persecution in all spheres of life has only gotten worse.
In cooperation with local partners and churches, Open Doors supports the church in North Africa through training, literature distribution, socio-economic development and advocacy.
- Pray for Libyan believers who are under immense pressure, particularly those who are arrested because of their faith.
- Pray for protection and release.
- Pray for those in power in Libya. Pray for peace and stability, and for an end to the proxy civil war.
- Pray for new converts who have been baptised. Pray that they will find a group of believers to join – and rejoice that they have found Jesus.
Lord, we ask for Your blessing on Libya and those who follow You there. Please give strength and perseverance to those who cannot publicly praise You or have any semblance of church life. Protect them from violence and kidnapping, and change the hearts of those who persecute Christians.