There are approximately 34,600 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?
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.
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 centres 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.
Islem 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. Jesus is like oxygen, because without oxygen you cannot breathe ... No matter what happens in my life, I can’t leave Jesus."Islem*
What has changed compared to last year?
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 conflict 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.
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.
- Pray for believers who must keep their faith in Jesus secret or face possible arrest and even slavery. Ask God to give them warm times of fellowship with Him.
- Ask God to bring stability to Libya through a government that strives to enforce laws and make the nation a better place. God holds the hearts of kings in His hand.
- Lift up local Open Doors partners as they carefully seek out believers in a society where the wrong question to the wrong person can bring calamity. Pray for wisdom, grace and protection for them as they aid believers there.
Dear Father, even with the threat of imminent danger, people still come to You in Libya. Please put Your hand over them and cover them with Your protection. Draw them close to You and lift their hearts. Help local partners to identify and interact effectively and safely with believers who need help. Bring about a change in the status quo in Libya with strong and fair government and protection for people of all faiths. In the name of Jesus, amen.