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Christian minority working in Libya now faces imprisonment, death

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
March 19th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

In a troubling development, Egyptian Copts in Libya say one of their number has been killed by a militia while detained along with dozens of other Copts. Copts accuse Libyan militias, with the tacit approval of the government, of harassing, arresting, torturing, and now killing Christians.

BENGHAZI, LIBYA (Catholic Online) - Egyptian Copts are angry over the suspicious death of one of their own at the hands of his Libyan captors. A shopkeeper, who was also a Copt, was arrested by a Benghazi militia and accused of "proselytizing." That individual was later allegedly tortured and killed while in detention.

Dozens of other Copts are also in detention accused of similar "crimes."

Copts are one of the largest minorities of Christians in the Middle East and North Africa, and their leadership is based in Egypt. Despite their native status to the region, they face increasing persecution from Muslims in both Egypt and Libya as Muslims see them as a threat to their virtual stranglehold on religious thought.

On February 26, Benghazi militiamen rounded up and arrested several dozen Egyptian Copts that were living and working in the city, mostly as shopkeepers. Egyptians make the largest minority group in Libya, frequently traveling to the country to work.

According to the Benghazi militia, many of those arrested were caught with proselytizing literature and had crosses tattooed on their hands or bodies, which confirmed their proselytizing intentions.

The shopkeepers have been accused of "impurity" and dishonesty in dealing with native Libyans.

One of those detainees died under mysterious circumstances on Monday, following his transfer to Tripoli. It is unknown why he was transferred, but his lawyers accuse his jailers of torturing him to death.

Sympathetic protestors have taken to the street in Egypt, one burning a Libyan flag before the Libyan embassy in Cairo.

Last Thursday evening, the Coptic church in Benghazi was also burned down by angry Muslim protesters.

The violence perpetrated by Muslims against Copts is part of a disturbing trend of discrimination against Christians in that part of the world. Although the Arab Spring revolutions were intended to bring a new wave of democracy and freedom to the people of Northern Africa, thus far those freedoms only appear to belong to Muslims. In all countries, Muslim conservatives have seized power and established constitutions that systematically alienate Christian minorities.

The increasing marginalization of these minorities means that Christians in that region will be increasingly exposed to harassment, and even martyrdom.

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