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SUMMARY: The Sahara Desert, volcanoes, oases, and nomadic peoples make Libya both stunning and intriguing. Equally breathtaking are the ancient cities along the Mediterranean coastline, home to most of Libya’s 6.5 million people. These cities showcase a diverse history marked with ancient Greek, Roman, and Ottoman influence. This water-poor but oil-rich country’s earliest inhabitants were Berber tribes, most of which have blended into the Arab majority. Today Libya is experiencing extreme turmoil that has absolutely devastated the nation.
Vast oil reserves made Libya one of Africa’s wealthiest nations, yet nearly one third of its people live in poverty. The death of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 during the Arab Spring (a series of populist uprisings in many Arab countries from 2010-2012) exacerbated a history of conflict. A pluralistic democratic state was promised, but instead the country was further divided by war. Numerous oil ports have been captured by militia, and the Islamic State found safe-haven in the midst of this massive instability. Violent attacks and suicide bombings throughout Libya have brought further death and destruction. Around half a million people have been displaced within Libya as a result of this unraveling chaos.
Today this nation is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a Christian. Ninety-seven percent of Libyans are Muslim. Although foreigners are legally permitted to worship, it is illegal for them to share the Gospel with Libyans. Missionaries are arrested, and most Christian expatriates have left. The 2015 video documenting the gruesome beheading of twenty-one believers in Libya by the Islamic State led even more Christians to flee. Now, there are no more than an estimated twenty believers left in the whole country. Yet, there are Libyans who left during Gaddafi’s reign who long to return and share the Gospel. Radio, satellite television, and the internet offer effective ways to evangelize and disciple Libyans. But Bibles and other Christian materials are still greatly needed. Source: PrayerCast
For God who said, ” Let light shine out of darkness,” has shown in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ…2 Cor. 4:6
Lord willing, I look forward to praying with you tonight.
Blaine Scogin, Prayer Director for Persecution Watch and Voice of the Persecuted
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They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. Heb.11:37-38
My Brothers and Sisters,
On this day, 3 years ago, the Islamic State terror group (ISIS) shared video footage of 21 followers of Jesus being martyred on the shores of Libya. The 20 Egyptian men and 1 from Chad/also linked to Ghana, had traveled to Libya for jobs as laborers to make a living and care for their families back home. They were captured and had their throats slit by ISIS for being ‘people of the Cross’. Each one died with the name of Jesus on their lips.
Shortly after this tragedy, the Bible Society Egypt quickly printed and distributed a scripture tract with encouraging verses and promise of blessing amid suffering to the nation. More than 1.6 million copies of the tract called, Two Rows by the Sea” was printed and shared with the churches. It was designed to be given to any Egyptian and included Bible verses to comfort the mourning and challenge people to commit to Christ.
In response to their execution, the tract also included a poem written by Dr Shady George. In the link below a brother reads this moving poem in his heart language of Arabic, but with English subtitles.
Based on the poem, a dear sister put together a beautiful music video remembering these martyrs of Jesus.
Richard Wurmbrand had often commented that it was never considered a first century church service unless the martyrs were remembered. Dear saints, let us remember those who paid the ultimate price in following their Savior, the martyrs, the witnesses of Jesus who lay down their lives on the altar and slain for the word of God and the testimony that they maintain. For sure they will be honored by Jesus and receive the reward of their inheritance.
Then I saw thrones and they sat on them and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, Rev. 20:4
Posted in honor of those who have been slain for Jesus.
Serving as Prayer Director for Voice of the Persecuted and Persecution Watch,
(World Watch Monitor) Yemen is the country where the risk of genocide, or mass killing, rose most last year, says Minority Rights Group International (MRG) in its 2017 Peoples Under Threat index, which also includes a large number of countries in which it is most difficult to live as a Christian.
Nine of the Index’s top 12 are also in the top 12 of Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List– namely Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Nigeria.
MRG calculates its annual index based on a number of indicators directly linked to the level of freedom of religion and expression, including democracy and governance, conflict data, and displacement.
Yemen, for instance, ranks 8th on the MRG Index and 9th on the WWL. The civil war that erupted there in 2014 has caused chaos and lawlessness, creating a climate where oppression can flourish.
Radical Islamist groups such as Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the Islamic State have exploited the power vacuum in Yemen to gain significant influence. Christians have been killed and abducted, including 16 people killed in an attack on a Christian care home for the elderly in March 2016.
According to MRG’s index, which lists the top 70 countries most at risk of genocide, mass killing or systematic violent repression, two-thirds of the countries where this risk has risen are in Africa.
Also, an increasing number of people are living at “deadly risk” in a growing number of “no-go zones” around the world. MRG says its reports shows “how a lack of access from the outside world allows killing to be perpetrated unchecked in disputed territories, militarized enclaves, and in some cases, whole countries… International isolation is a known risk factor for genocide or mass killing”.
Syria, for example, leads the list for the third consecutive year and, according to the report, UN human rights officials have been “granted no access to Syria since the crisis began in 2011”.
Meanwhile the civil war in Yemen has so far killed more than 8,000 people and injured over 45,000 civilians. The fighting between Iran-backed Houthi rebels in the north and the Saudi-backed government in the south has furthermore displaced more than 3 million people – over 10 per cent of Yemen’s population – reports the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
OCHA says these figures are most likely lower than the reality because of the lack of reporting capacity and people not having access to health centres.
Those who have not been killed or injured in the fighting might still lose their lives in the largest ever recorded cholera outbreak in a single country in a single year, aid agencies warn. With a crumbling health system, with less than half the country’s hospitals operational and a lack of available medication, nearly 2,000 people have died of cholera so far, with an estimated 5,000 Yemenis becoming ill every day. More than 600,000 Yemenis could have cholera before the end of the year, the International Committee of the Red Cross has warned.
(World Watch Monitor) ‘Maizah’ saw no choice other than fleeing Libya.
She was beaten up by a group of bearded men, and offered the position of a fourth “wife”. She knew that as a Christian even her own family might kill her. Running away was her only option.
Now in her twenties, Maizah is still suffering from traumatic experiences. Even after finding refuge in a Western country, she is still afraid someone will find out where she lives and come after her.
Her appearance is quite changed from before. She wears a cross that is not hard to miss. Seated in her tiny living room on a red sofa, she talks about her life back in Libya.
‘Where is God?’
“When I was eight years old, I asked my mother, ‘Where is God, what does he look like?’ ‘It’s not good to ask this,’ she replied angrily. ‘You should ask for forgiveness. God has no form.’ But I wasn’t convinced.
“I saw young girls going to a Sufi mosque to memorize the Quran. I wanted to go with them. My family was okay with that, but later that mosque was closed down.
“At nine, I went to a Salafist mosque. When the imam saw me wearing trousers, he began beating me. I ran out. I was looking for God, but this imam shocked me.”
After this, Maizah didn’t go to the mosque anymore.
As a teenager, she began again to search for God. “Someone told me about another mosque; she said that the people there were different. I went there completely covered with a scarf, even my hands were covered.
“The second time, I entered wearing trousers. I wanted to see what would happen. They accepted me. I memorized a lot of verses from the Quran. I liked the place.”
But Maizah’s comfort was short-lived. “In time they started to tell me ‘You have a beautiful body, why don’t you cover it more?’ They convinced me to cover more.”
In the mosque she was dressed in an Islamic way, but when she was out with family or friends she continued wearing more liberal-style clothes. “In the mosque they found out. They told me that I was ‘cheating God’.
“Of course that is not what I wanted, but I started to notice that they were also ‘cheating’ God.
“I saw them doing so many bad things—I overheard one of the leaders talking on the phone and discovered that she was a liar.” Disappointed, Maizah made the radical decision to leave the mosque and live a non-religious life.
‘The Way, the Truth and the Life’
Years later, at the beginning of 2011, Maizah had a profound spiritual experience, one she couldn’t explain away.
While one day crying in bed, “I felt someone touch my feet,” she said.
“The room had been dark, but all of a sudden there was a man shining like light. He didn’t look unreal, but I felt I couldn’t touch him. He kept standing next to me. I felt happiness in my heart just because of his presence. ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life,’ he said. Then he was gone.”
This was only two weeks before the civil war started in Libya. When the bombs started falling close to their home, the family decided to flee to Egypt.
‘A candle for Libya’
While in Egypt, Maizah came into contact with a Christian neighbour. The woman invited her over. Maizah’s relatives warned her against it because of the woman’s religion.
Libyans are not allowed to practice any religion other than Islam.
“That made me really want to know more. This woman was really honest with me. I asked her to tell me about Jesus. Her words spoke directly to my heart. I believed her, I felt it was true. I asked her to show me a Bible—it was the first time I saw one. I was scared of it.”
Maizah began to visit her Christian neighbour daily. “One day I told her about the man I saw in my bedroom. She told me it was Jesus, and she showed me a Bible verse in which He said—I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”
As time went by, Maizah felt she wanted to profess her new faith in Jesus. “The neighbour blessed me and said, ‘You will be a candle for Libya, shine for the people of Libya.’”
During her next visit to Egypt she was baptized. With help from her Egyptian friend, she got in touch with an Egyptian Christian family in Libya.
Even before the recent sway of Islamist insurgency in the country, attending a church in Libya has always been impossible for Libyans. The official churches are only allowed for foreign Christians. “We met for two years in secret,” remembered Maizah.
In 2013, her supportive Christian ‘family’ was arrested. A priest brought her into contact with another Christian. Maizah was warned: “The police were searching for you when they arrested your friends; they found notes with your name.” She fled to Egypt again.
Maizah’s birth family did everything to find her. She ended up in Turkey—the plan was that she would go to Europe.
A ‘safe house’
“One day I called my mother on the phone. My sister answered. She said my mother was not well, that she was paralysed. I went home because I wanted to be with her.
“At the airport my family was waiting for me as if nothing happened. When I entered my home, my mother was standing there. I didn’t believe what I saw. I felt betrayed.”
Her brother said there were some people who wanted to talk with her. “I shouldn’t be afraid. He would stay with me. The living room was filled with men in white robes and long beards. They started to ask questions.”
“One of them hit me with his fist in my face. I didn’t answer as I thought my brother would protect me. They grabbed me. Another hit me with his fist in my face.
“They continued to hit me more and more, but then, somehow, I became aware that I was being protected, I didn’t feel the pain anymore. They kept on hitting and hitting me. I am still bearing the consequences of that day.”
At last, their leader spoke to Maizah alone: “Your name is on a list of people who should be killed. I can make you an offer—I can marry you. I have three wives, you can be the fourth. If you do this we forget about all of this.”
Shocked by the offer, Maizah said she agreed, in order to gain time. She said she needed to see a doctor before she could marry him. He agreed to this but didn’t want her to go to a Libyan hospital. She was taken to neighbouring Tunisia. “They constantly kept an eye on me. There was no chance to run.”
She had memorized the phone number of a pastor in that country. With the help of a doctor she managed to escape. She found refuge in a safe house.
Her outraged family started a search for her, but the safe house proved to be safe indeed.
Maizah – not her real name – finally made it to a Western country. Even there, she is still afraid of people coming after her.
• Pray for a unified government that will rebuild the nation with justice and peace.
• Pray for the tiny Libyan Church to be united and established despite intense persecution.
• Pray for Jesus to reveal Himself to moderate and extremist Muslims alike.
(World Watch Monitor) Today, 16 December, is the date set for the signing of a UN-facilitated agreement on forming a new national unity government in Libya. Since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, the country has been engulfed by conflicts between various coalitions of armed groups. The country is split between an internationally recognised government and rival groups contending for power. However, experts see this political development as likely to make little difference to the chaotic situation. The rise of armed groups which have pledged allegiance to Islamic State has further exacerbated the risks. World Watch Monitor has heard in detail about the recent deaths of two Egyptian Coptic Christians caught up in the lawlessness:
For Wasfi and Fahmi Michael, there wasn’t much of a choice.
“My sons had to go to Libya to simply put food on the table,” said Bakhit Michael, father of the two Copts, slain in November.
“There was no way for them to earn a living here at home,” the 60-year-old bereaved father said, noting his sons’ wages in Libya were supporting their own wives, their mother and him in a village off Sohag, 292 miles south of Cairo.
Four brothers, including the murdered Wasfi and Fahmi, their two sisters, their mother and father, all shared one home, with each sibling and spouse in a different room.
o far, the story of this family does not differ from a common narrative of poverty and lack of opportunity lived by many households in Upper Egypt, in the country’s south.
“Back home, they could only hope to get 60 Egyptian pounds [about US$7] a day, hardly enough to buy a sack of flour,” the father told World Watch Monitor. Nor could they count on regular wages.
“They could be working a day, stay idle and unpaid for three more!”
This compares to at least 50 dinars, or about $35, a day in the hitherto oil-rich neighbouring Libya.
For the Christians, the ordeal wouldn’t have differed from that faced by their Muslim compatriots, had it only been a matter of economic and social deprivation. But following an all-too-familiar scenario faced by many Christians in an increasingly assertive Islamic Middle East, the Christian Egyptians were picked precisely for being that: Christians.
The two brothers had been in Libya for the greater part of a decade. They were at different times joined by the other two brothers, Sabri and Tharwat, as well as by two cousins on both sides of the family, Nasser and Ashraf. Their tools of trade were simple handyman tools, and their home in Misrata, in western Libya, was one room shared by all four. Rooms in the same building housed other Egyptians – Muslims and Christians – from Upper Egypt.
Early last month, Wasfi and Fahmi Michael were tricked by a Libyan into going out “to inspect a job”. The 36-year-old builder and his 29-year-old brother, both uneducated, were picked up by the man, while Mohamed Shaaban, a fellow helper, was asked by the Libyan to stay behind.
“There’s no need to bring Mohamed along. You and your brother are good enough to do the job for now,” Mohamed later told Sabri the Libyan man said to them.
Later, the bodies of both Wasfi and Fahmi were recovered with “white gloves on their hands,” a likely sign of their murder as the work of Ansar-ul Sharia, one of many militant Islamic groups now active in lawless Libya.
“The money on Wasfi, a total of 14 thousand Libyan dinars [more than US$10,000] was left untouched. Wasfi used to take all his earnings wherever he went to safeguard against theft, if left at their communal accommodation,” said Nasser Michael.
“Forensics put the likely date of their murder as 12 November, seven days after their kidnap,” he said.
Killed for being Christian
After 20 Egyptian Christians (and one Ghanaian) were killed – and their deaths filmed as a ‘spectacle’- on a Libyan beach by IS in February, the Christians were left in no doubt as to their precarious position after the Egyptian government told them to leave Egypt.
“My three brothers and other Christians tried to go back to Egypt. But they were left stranded,” 25-year-old Tharwat Michael said.
An unknown number of Coptic Christians, including from the Michael brothers’ village and surrounding towns, are still left trapped in Misrata, said Father Soliman Botrous, a priest from the brothers’ church in the village of Awlad Ali.
“The roads are all unsafe. If they take the land route to Egypt, they must pass by Sirte. ISIS is there waiting. If they try to reach Tripoli for the airport, Fajr Libya [Libya Dawn militias] and again ISIS control the area,” Tharwat said.
“Right up to the time of their murder, they could find no safe way through!” the younger brother said.
Either way, being Christian meant a likely death sentence.
“For instance, at Sirte, on the road from Misrata to Egypt, Christians are made to disembark from cars and are taken to their death,” Fr. Botrous added.
“A month ago, Wael Farouq, a Christian from the nearby Egyptian village of Shawawnah, suffered bone fractures in his work in Misrata. He had to go back to Egypt for treatment. A doctor in Libya, an Egyptian, helped issue him identity papers as a Muslim, so he was able to cross the land route. At Sirte, the vehicle was stopped in search of Christians. When they found all to be Muslims, the car was allowed to pass,” he said.
‘They kept the faith’
On 6 November, Wasfi Michael was picked up from home as agreed by the presumed Libyan contractor at 4pm, said Sabri, the brother who shared a room with Wasfi and Fahmi.
“By 6pm, neither Wasfi’s, nor Fahmi’s, phones were answering,” he said.
It was not until 10 days later that the bodies were identified in a hospital in nearby Zleiten. Sabri, and the two cousins Nasser and Ashraf, learnt that the bodies of Wasfi and Fahmi were dumped on 14 November in the desert, 160 km from their Misrata home.
“Their Christian ‘tattoos’ of the Virgin, St. George and of crosses on their arms were cut repeatedly with a penknife,” Nasser said. Their captors had tried to forcibly remove the typical Christian symbols, more common among rural Copts, he said.
The bodies were moved to a hospital in Misrata on 17 Nov. “At the second hospital, they at first resisted stating the cause of death as murder. They wanted to state it as ‘death by natural causes’,” Nasser said.
After a very late intervention by the Egyptian Ambassador, the only help the family recalled being offered by Egyptian authorities, the deaths were stated as due to “gunshots to both heads above the eyebrow line.”
Procedural woes only added to the family’s suffering.
“It took us eight days in Misrata hospital to finish the papers to release the bodies to the aeroplane,” Nasser said.
Once landed at Alexandria on 25 Nov., however, airport authorities kept the family waiting from 5pm until 1am to release the bodies, and the family then had to pay for an ambulance to take them, Tharwat Michael added.
Bakhit Michael recollected the last time he heard from his eldest son: “Often we’d ask them to come back. They said they could only wait till the roads were safe to do so. On 6 November, Wasfi and Fahmi talked to me and to their mother on the phone. They asked me if I needed anything. I said we were missing them. Wasfi said ‘Bye dad for now, a Libyan is at the door coming to pick us up for work.’ That was the last we heard from them.”
Back in the Awlad Ali village church, the funeral was full of mourners.
“For all the pain we feel, we know they are in heaven. They would not renounce their faith, but kept it till the last. This makes us walk with heads up high!” the father said, indicating that his sons must have been pressurised to recant their faith.
And for a Church long acquainted with a sustained history of persecution, Fr. Botrous had this to say: “Wasfi and Fahmi are martyrs for Christ. They kept the faith to their last breath, and are now crowned in heaven.”
For those left behind, a simple plea for comfort and peace is all that is now needed, he added.
South Sudan (Morning Star News) – A group claiming affiliation with the Islamic State (IS) announced the beheading of a Christian from South Sudan in a video posted on Sunday (Oct. 18).
A masked man who carries out the killing in the video, presumably in Libya, states that he is defending Muslim brothers he claims were persecuted by South Sudan. The world’s youngest nation seceded from Sudan in 2011 and is embroiled in an ethnic civil war, but there is no record of any Muslims dying at the hands of Christians there.
In the video, which a group calling itself the Islamic State in Cyrenaica (eastern coastal Libya) released, the victim is identified in an inaudible voice, possibly as Kual Gai Wek, a native of South Sudan who has been living in Libya since 1989. His name does not appear to be Mohamed Al-Ghaid, as reported elsewhere.
The video also shows an enemy soldier, said to be Faraj Al-Saiti, being shot to death in the same area as the beheading. The identity of the South Sudanese Christian has not been verified, and it is unclear when the executions took place.
The IS figure accuses South Sudan of mistreating Muslims despite an interim constitution that defines the country as a secular state.
“Oh Christians in South Sudan, know that as you kill you will be killed, and as you displace our brothers we will do the same,” the masked man says. “No safety or shelter for you except that of the Islamic State … We will fight all of you as you fight us.”
The victim is then forced down to his knees and beheaded.
Christians in South Sudan expressed their condolences and asked God to forgive the killers.
IS was shown executing Christians in Libya on two occasions earlier this year. In a video released April 19, IS is seen executing 28 Ethiopian Christians. The Christians were divided into two groups of men being marched to their place of execution with their arms bound behind their backs. One group is held at a coastal area identified as “Wilayat Barqa” (Barqa State) in Libya, and the other is located inland in the desert scrub brush of “Wilayat Fazzan” (Fazzan State), also in Libya.
The men in the desert are shot in the back of their heads. The video switches to the seaside, where the men are beheaded.
In February, IS released a video of the execution of 21 Christians, all but one of them Egyptian. The Ethiopians and the Egyptians who were executed on the beach appear to be executed in the same general area.
IS late last month killed three Assyrian Christians, presumably in Syria, according to an execution video released Oct. 7. In the video, the group threatened to kill some 200 other Christians in Syria unless it receives a ransom of $50,000 each for their release.
The videoed execution is thought to have taken place on Sept. 23, during the Muslim holiday of “Festival of the Sacrifice,” according to Arabic-language news media.
Work will begin in the coming days in Minya on a church that was planned to honor the deaths of 20 Egyptian Coptic Christians who died in a brutal sectarian attack by militants in Libya earlier this year.
Plans and licences for the ‘Church of the Martyrs’ have been finalised to begin the work, head of the Samalout municipality in Minya said, as reported by MENA state news. Major General Gamal Mubaral Qinawy confirmed that the church will be built in the village of Al-Awar, in the district of Samalout.
Qinawy said that work on the construction of the church will begin in the coming days, with the project having secured EGP 5m so far, out of a total required cost of EGP 10m. The rest of the money will be collected while construction is underway. He noted that the work was initially stalled due to a required licence from the Ministry of Agriculture.
In February, a video was published online by a Libyan militant group affiliated with the so-called “Islamic State” which showed the beheading of 20 Egyptian Coptic Christians, and another African Christian.
The Coptic Egyptians were captured on two separate occasions from the Mediterranean coastal city of Sirte between December and January. Read more
(Voice of the Persecuted) Yesterday, Ethiopians began three days of national mourning for more than 20 Ethiopian Christians killed by Islamic State militants in Libya. ISIS once again singled out Christians and documented their savagery in a video where they brutally beheaded and shot the believers in Christ.
The Islamic State – aka ISIL/ISIS/IS/Daesh – has taken over parts of Iraq and Syria in recent months. The militant terror group has established a caliphate and carried out mass persecutions of minority populations, primarily Christians and Yazidis. They have also published videos as a warning to countries that have militarily intervened and a way to control civilians through fear.
The discriminate murders have horrified Ethiopians and spurred international calls for condemnation.
The leader of the Catholic Church shared his anguish of the mass execution and offered his condolences to patriarch of the Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Church, Abuna Matthias.
Pope Francis lamented,
“With great distress and sadness I learn of the further shocking violence perpetrated against innocent Christians in Libya. I know that Your Holiness is suffering deeply in heart and mind at the sight of your faithful children being killed for the sole reason that they are followers of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”
He also stated,
“It makes no difference whether the victims are Catholic, Copt, Orthodox or Protestant,” Pope Francis said in his message. “Their blood is one and the same in their confession of Christ!”
He offered hope amidst the darkness, noting the Easter season of joy in the knowledge that “Christ has risen from the dead.”
“This year, that joy – which never fades – is tinged with profound sorrow. Yet we know that the life we live in God’s merciful love is stronger than the pain all Christians feel, a pain shared by men and women of good will in all religious traditions.”
The Pope offered “heartfelt spiritual solidarity” and assurances of “closeness in prayer at the continuing martyrdom being so cruelly inflicted on Christians in Africa, the Middle East and some parts of Asia.”
Voice of the Persecuted is praying that more Christian leaders across denominations, will inform their congregations of the modern-day persecution taking place against Christians, encourage them to pray and care for the persecuted, and use their voices to advocate for and stand with our suffering brothers and sisters, worldwide. #WeAreOne
If you are a church leader raising awareness and praying for the persecuted, we would be very encouraged to hear from you! If you are a leader who would like to begin sharing with your congregation, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with Pastor for the Persecuted in the subject line. We’d be happy to help you in the process.