Uprising in the Middle East spreads to Libya

By February 18, 2011

Libya (MNN) — Libya's anti-government movement is stirring

Protesters dubbed Thursday as a "day of rage" and called for
nationwide protests. They wanted it to
coincide with the anniversary of two bloody episodes that marked the regime's
40+ years in power. At the same time,
supporters of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi gathered in the capital.

The tensions spilled over into unrest in at least four
different cities. Having seen the wave
of uprisings that ousted leaders in both Egypt and Tunisia, the government
wasted no time in responding, offering raises for government employees and the
release of 110 political prisoners.

Paul Estabrooks is a minister-at-large for Open Doors. He
says, "It seems that a lot of people in that area want change. The issue is:
what kind of change do they want, and what kind of change will come?"

Libya ranks Number 25 on the Open Doors World Watch
List. The list is a compilation of the
top 50 countries known for their persecution of believers around the

There is no constitution regulating
religious freedom, but the Great Green Charter on Human rights does somewhat
regulate it. However, if a Christian
converts from Islam and is harassed or arrested by the police, there's no legal
recourse. Estabrooks says in spite of
what happened in Egypt, the scenario in Libya looks very different. "The
chances are even slimmer there for change. The only thing might be in a more
democratic type of government, an opportunity for minorities to be better

That's a slim
hope, however. Even if there were sweeping
political change, he says that "the basic attitudes don't change. There's
simply a desire for political change that will make a difference for them
economically, but we're not optimistic at the moment, especially in Libya,
that there would be any change for our brothers and sisters. But there is
always hope in democratic situations."

Libyan Christians are mostly underground. There is fear and distrust in the country
because of the scrutiny of security forces and intelligent services. When posed with the question of whether or
not believers are part of the push for change, as they were in Egypt, Estabrooks notes, "In Libya, we haven't heard from our contacts
there about their direct involvement as we did in Egypt."

In terms of how believers are responding to the upheaval
going on around them, he adds, "We
honestly don't know. Because their communities are small, it's perhaps less
likely for them to become public about their attitude and desire for change."

What can be done? Two
things, says Estabrooks. "The way to
pray is to ask God to give them the opportunity to use this situation in order
to share His love with others and to be able to be more open about their

The other way is to get informed about the persecuted church. We have more details here.

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