Christians pray in Libya

By August 25, 2011

Libya (MNN) — While a defiant Moammar Gaddafi assured "martyrdom or victory" today in the battle against the "aggressors" in Libya, Christians in Tripoli gathered for a prayer meeting.

Paul Estabrooks with Open Doors says, "The word from Tripoli today, from our country coordinator there, is that things are very positive and upbeat. Believers get together at noon hour every day to pray. They pray for their country. They pray for the future of the church, and they encourage one another."

According to Open Doors estimations, the number of indigenous Libyan Christians is around 150. However, the expatriate Christian community was believed to be approximately 180,000 prior to the start of the revolution. Large numbers of migrant workers left Libya after the revolt which started Feb. 15, but a small number of foreign Christians remain in Libya.

"Today a group of Christians from Tripoli shared with me that they are doing well, and [they] said the atmosphere is okay," the Open Doors worker said. "Also, the church is still in good condition and undamaged, despite fighting in the capital."

About the personal safety of the Christians, the coordinator said: "Believers from African origin are not going outside the city for their own safety, but otherwise everyone is safe."

The country coordinator added: "Getting in touch with Christians in Tripoli is not easy. Phone service is off and on, or not answered. But I understand that the Internet is up in Tripoli again, so I expect communication opportunities will improve in the next few days."

In a country with few known Christians, believers are excited about new freedoms. However, Estabrooks says there are concerns, too. "Their attitude toward democracy is basically that of majority rule. And the concept of protecting minority groups, which is also part of democracy as we know it, is not even on the horizon." Pray that Christians will be protected in the transition as a new government is established in the weeks and months ahead.

About the future of the church, the Open Doors worker noted: "The situation will change, that is for sure. But will Christians gain from the change? Will there be more religious freedom under a new administration? No one knows. The government will be Islamic, but the question remains how strict it will be and how strong fundamentalist influences will be shaping the new Libya.

"Seeing the disorder of the rebels, it remains to be seen if Libya stays united. It is very much a tribal society and may even split into the two or three original provinces — Fezzan, Tripolitania and Cyrenaica. The latter we know as Cyrene from the Bible."

The Open Doors worker says that prayer by Christians inside and outside of Libya is vital as the rebels attempt to take control of the government.

"No matter what the geographical and governmental future of the country, I hope and pray that local Libyan Christians find safe opportunities to meet with each other and have fellowship that will help the church to plant roots deep into Libyan society. Please pray for the Christians there."

Libya is ranked No. 25 on the Open Doors 2011 World Watch List of the 50 worst persecutors of Christians.

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