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Christians arrested in Libya on charges of preaching and apostasy from Islam

City of Tripoli, Libya./ Credit: Shutterstock

Last week Libya’s Internal Security Agency launched a campaign in the city of Tripoli to arrest Libyan citizens and foreigners accused of apostasy from Islam and preaching Christianity.

The security agency did not specify the number of those arrested and refrained from publishing their names, stating only their initials.

The agency released a video of six Libyans — including a girl — as well as a Pakistani and two Americans with their faces blocked out in which they confess to the charges.

The two Americans worked at the Gateway International School in the Tripoli suburb of Zawiyat al-Dahmani that specializes in teaching English.

The government agency said that the two Americans and the wife of one of them belonged to the Assemblies of God Christian missionary organization. It was not revealed whether the wife was arrested or not. 

The Americans were accused of secretly turning the school into a center for preaching the Christian religion.

The Internal Security Agency noted that the organization to which the Americans belong plays an important role in “seducing Libyans in various ways” to deviate from the Islamic religion.

In an official press release, the agency stated: “The Libyan people are proud to belong to their religion and consider it the solid foundation of their unifying national identity and regard any violation or abuse of it as a hostile act that threatens national security and seek[s] to sow discord and disunity among its people and those who comprise it.”

The Internal Security Agency “is keen to monitor suspicious activities and appeals that threaten the Islamic identity of our society, including the crime of apostasy and incitement to it.”

“Attacking our true religion is no different from acts of extremism and terrorism, and through monitoring and investigation, the agency monitored the rise in activities hostile to true Islam, targeting our youth of both sexes, many of whom left the country,” the statement said.

A member of the Supreme Council of State and the Political Dialogue Committee in Libya, Salem Musa Madi, announced on his Facebook page that his son Sifaw had been abducted in Tripoli on March 26. On April 6, he reported that he was apprehended by the Internal Security Agency on charges of converting to Christianity.

Open Doors reported that the current number of Christians in Libya is 35,400 (0.5% of the population).

Its report for the year 2023, which covers the period from Oct. 1, 2021, to the end of September 2022, indicates that 200 Christians were subjected to physical and psychological violence during that period, 19 Christians were kidnapped, and another 15 were arrested.

Eight Christian installations, including churches, were attacked either directly or in their environs.

Libya ranks fifth on the organization’s list of countries where Christians face the greatest persecution.

In its detailed report on Libya, the organization also draws attention to the great influence of the Turkey-Qatar axis, which supports political Islam, especially in Tripoli and the country’s west.

Political Islam replaces the laws or interprets them differently so that they restrict the practice of other religions. It also works to change the culture of society — which puts it under great pressure — so that it becomes more radical and extreme, not only toward other religions but also toward other Islamic sects. 

The Internal Security Agency statement confirmed that the accused were transferred to the Office of the Public Prosecutor and thus face the risk of execution.

This story was first published by ACI MENA, CNA’s Arabic-language news partner, and has been translated and adapted by ACI Prensa and CNA.

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