Libya (Benghazi) Islamists do continue to hunt for Christians working in the North African country. They are summarily accused of proselytism. The recent incident takes place in the Mediterranean city of Benghazi, the capital of Cyrenaica. In the second largest city of Libya 48 Egyptian Christians were arrested, as Asianews reported. These are Orthodox Copts, who were reported by Libyan Islamists. The Christians, merchants and traders who visited the market of Benghazi, are alleged to have conducted religious images and representations of themselves. A video seized from the police shows how Christians are being held in a small room of Salafists. They appear physically exhausted. Many wounds and abrasions are visible. The Islamists have shaved all Christians bald.
The incident has caused displeasure among the inhabitants of Benghazi. Only in October, it had risen against the Salafi militias accused of perpetrating the attack on the American consulate, where the U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens was killed.
The authorities reported on Thursday that Egyptian Christians had not been arrested for religious reasons, but for violation of immigration laws. Only in mid-February, four Christians were arrested, an Egyptian, a South African, a Swede and a South Korean with U.S. citizenship. They are accused of having spread Bibles and other Christian materials.
The spread of Islamic extremism is affecting the Catholic orders, which have been active in part for a long time on the territory of modern Libya. They have built hospitals and work with elderly people. Only in January the Islamists have succeeded in forcing the Franciscan Sisters of the Child Jesus of Barce and the Ursuline Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Beida, to leave the country. In October 2012, the Sisters of the Holy Family of Spoleto were forced to leave Libya due to the constant threats and attacks by the Islamists, as Father Dominique Rézeau reported.
"Not a day goes by without Christian graves being desecrated and destroyed," lamented Bruno Daimasso to the magazine Tempi, the gardener of the Italian cemetery in Tripoli. "The remains of the Christians are torn from their graves and scattered in the cemetery," as Jeune Afriquereported. "The Libyan authorities have arrived, took photos and did nothing," said Daimasso.
According to Dominique Rézeau there are officially some 200,000 Christians who lived in Libya before the fall of Gaddafi, and three percent of the population, since the so-called Arab Spring, "only a few are thousand left." As the Vicar Apostolic Bishop Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli confirmed, the churches in the Kyreinaika are indeed still open, the situation for Christians is however "very critical”.