First Published: 2013-02-11

 

Fear haunts Christians in post-Gathafi Libya

 

Small Christian community's fears for its safety have increased amid rising Muslim extremism.

 

Middle East Online

By Youssef Ba - TRIPOLI

Their number is dwindling in Libya

"Not a day goes by without tombs being vandalised," says Dalmasso Bruno, caretaker of the Italian cemetery in the Libyan capital where Christians fear rising Muslim extremism.

"Human bones have been taken out of their tomb and scattered across the cemetery" in central Tripoli, he said. "The Libyan authorities came and took pictures. They promised to take measures but nothing has been done."

Since the 2011 fall of Moamer Gathafi's regime, the small Christian community's fears for its safety have increased, especially after a church bombing in December killed two people in the Mediterranean town of Dafniya.

But despite such fears, dozens of worshippers mostly from India, the Philippines and African nations attend mass each week at the Catholic church of Saint Francis near central Tripoli to pray for security to be restored in Libya.

"Look there are no security measures outside the church and the faithful can move around freely around," said Father Dominique Rezeau.

But elsewhere in Libya, Christians are not so untroubled.

"In Cyrenaica, pressure has been exerted on Christians, notably the nuns who had to leave their congregation ... in the east of the country," said Father Rezeau.

He said Libya had as many as 100,000 Christians before the 2011 revolution that toppled Gathafi. "Now only a few thousand remain."

The main Catholic Church's clergyman in Libya told the Vatican missionary news agency Fides earlier this month that Christians are being driven out of eastern Libya by Muslim fundamentalists.

The Apostolic Vicar of Tripoli, Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli, said the situation in that region was "critical" and the "atmosphere very tense."

Two religious communities in the east of the country -- the Congregation of the Holy Family of Spoleto and the Franciscan Sisters of Child Jesus -- were forced to leave "after being pressured by fundamentalists."

The Apostolic Vicar of Benghazi has been advised to take precautions ahead of a large-scale demonstration on February 20, Martinelli told Fides.

Libya's second city Benghazi was the cradle of the uprising against Gathafi's dictatorial regime that erupted in February 2011, and the eastern hub has since been at the forefront of Islamist-linked unrest.

Several international agencies and diplomatic missions have come under attack, the deadliest being a September 11 assault on the US consulate in Benghazi that killed ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

But the Catholic church in Benghazi remains open, Martinelli said.

Before the uprising, three percent of Libya's population of around 6.3 million were Christian. Most of those who remain are expatriates, including Egyptian Copts who form the largest community.

After mass at St Francis Church, the multinational congregation gathers to socialise while a group of Nigerians in traditional clothes set up a table to sell decorations made of wood.

Antony Amstrong, a Ghanaian who has been teaching French in Libya for the past two decades, deplored the rampant "violence and security" since the anti-Gathafi uprising.

"All the sacrifice made by Libyans and the price they paid have not brought stability to this country," Amstrong said.

Ftsing Giscard, an electrician from Cameroon who has been living in Libya for three years, agreed.

"Insecurity is a problem that affects everyone," he said, stressing that Africans are most at risk because "Libyans accuse them of being mercenaries who fought alongside Gathafi's forces."

 

13 dead, 100 injured in two Spanish seaside city attacks

Israel freezes implementation of settlement law

Erdogan meddles in German politics

Saudi Arabia installing cranes at Yemen ports

Civilians stay on frontlines despite dangers in Raqa

Low-cost attacks a new reality for Europeans

Forces of Libya's Haftar say commander wanted by ICC in detention

Yemen rebels urged to free political commentator

Iranian footballer breaks silence over ban for playing Israelis

IS fighters almost encircled in Syrian desert

For Israel, White House ties trump neo-Nazis and antisemitism

Iran reform leader ends hunger strike

Van ploughs through pedestrians in Barcelona terror attack

13 killed in Barcelona van attack

Iraq acknowledges abuses in Mosul campaign

Netanyahu under fire for response to US neo-Nazism

Israel to free high-profile suspects in money laundering probe

Spanish police shut down jet-ski migrant smugglers

Syrian actress, activist Fadwa Suleiman dies in Paris

Israeli court extends detention for Islamic cleric over ‘incitement’

UAE to provide $15 million a month to Gaza

Sudan's Bashir 'satisfied' with Nile dam project

US-backed rebels say American presence in Syria to last ‘decades’

Tunisian clerics oppose equal inheritance rights for women

Israel strikes almost 100 Hezbollah arms convoys in 5 years

UN hopes for eighth round of Syria talks before year’s end

LONG READ: How Syria continues to evade chemical weapons justice

Civilians killed in US-led raids on Raqa

Qatari pilgrims begin flooding into Saudi by land

Turkey arrests 9 more journalists for alleged ‘Gulen links’

Iran’s Karroubi on hunger strike over 6-year house arrest

Saudi Arabia to restart work on Grand Mosque expansion

Algeria reshuffles cabinet, nominates three new ministers

Syria rebels lose heavyweight faction

ICC orders Mali ex-jihadist pay 2.7 m euros for Timbuktu destruction

Libya seeks to ‘organise’ NGOs carrying migrant rescue Ops

More than one million South Sudan refugees in Uganda

Beirut, Damascus pledge to boost economic ties

Two killed on Gaza-Egypt border

Qataris to do hajj on Saudi king expenses

Fire breaks out at UNESCO heritage site in Saudi Arabia

Iran military chief in Turkey for talks on Syrian war

Saudi Electricity announces $1.75b in international loans

Israel to strip Jazeera journalist of press credentials

Bahrain state media accuses Qatar of trying to topple regime