By BosNewsLife Middle East and Africa Services
TRIPOLI, LIBYA (BosNewsLife)-- A month after an American teacher was gunned down in Libya friends and family members are convinced that he was killed because of his Christian faith.
The body of Ronald Thomas Smith II, who taught chemistry at the International School in the port city of Benghazi, was found December 5, near the residential compound that housed him and other teachers in an upscale neighborhood.
He had been at school in the morning but went home to change his clothes and go jogging at midday, said the school's director Adel al-Mansouri. The area is also the site of the U.S. diplomatic mission, where the U.S. Ambassador and three other Americans were killed last year.
The 33-year-old teacher, arrived in turbulent Libya eighteen months ago, after serving on staff at the Austin Stone Community Church, a Southern Baptist congregation in the United States.
The "much beloved" teacher wanted to be "a blessing to the Libyan people," church leaders said in a statement.
While no group claimed responsibility for his death, Christians said Smith’s faith in Christ, and his talking about it among Muslims, seems to be the main was the motive behind the slaying.
Additionally, Islamic militants had demanded the kidnapping of Americans living in Libya.
"Ronnie's greatest desire was for peace and prosperity in Libya and for the people of Libya to have the joy of knowing God through Christ," local church leaders added.
Smith, who graduated in 2006 from the University of Texas in Austin with a master's degree in chemistry, moved to Benghazi with his wife, Anita, and young son. His wife and son had gone home for Christmas, but he reportedly stayed behind to help students with final exams for the semester.
Author Raymond Ibrahim, who wrote 'Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians' said in comments published by the website of Christian broadcaster CBN that the killing is part of a wider Islamic campaign against devoted American Christians talking about their faith with Muslims.
He said the murder brings to mind the story of another "much beloved" American teacher, who was killed in the Islamic world for talking about Christianity.
On March 1, 2012 in Iraq, Jeremiah Small—described as "beloved teacher and friend" was shot to death by a student, even "as he [Small] bent his head to pray at the start of a morning class. The 33-year-old teacher from Washington State took bullets to the head and chest and died at the scene," Ibrahim recalled.
"Mr. Jeremiah’s hands were still folded in prayer when he fell," he quoted students as saying. A day before the shooting "a heated discussion" broke out "during which the pupil threatened to kill the teacher because of conflicting religious views."
As with Smith II, Small "was a devout Christian who frequently praised Christianity and prayed in the classroom, and his friends in Washington said his evangelism is what motivated him to teach in Iraq… but he wasn’t pushy," friends reportedly said.
Additionally, the father of the student who killed Small, before killing himself, said that Small was trying to convert his son to Christianity and called Christians like the slain American teacher "more dangerous than al Qaeda", Ibrahim said.
"Americans attacked and/or murdered for merely talking—or being suspected of talking—about Christianity is not an uncommon phenomenon in the Islamic world."
He said several days after the killing of Jeremiah Small in Iraq, on March 18, 2012, American teacher Joel Shrum, 29, living in Yemen with his wife and two children, was shot eight times and killed by gunmen of the 'Supporters of Sharia' group.
The group reportedly issued a message saying, "This operation comes as a response to the campaign of Christian proselytizing that the West has launched against Muslims," calling Shrum "one of the biggest American proselytizers."
Elsewhere, in Indonesia in October 2011, an American family was attacked by "an enraged mob spurred by a local religious leader."
They were accused of proselytizing to Muslims, he added.
The Muslim mob reportedly set fire to Americans’ property and vehicle: " Only the intervention of police saved the[ir] lives."
In Bangladesh in February 2012, three American Christians were injured by broken glass after their car was attacked by another Muslim mob that suspected they were converting Muslims: at least 200 angry locals chased their car, throwing stones at it, news reports said.
Yet, President Barack Obama's administration has only asked the Libyan government to “thoroughly investigate” the killing— "a somewhat pointless request, considering the U.S.-supported Libyan government openly arrests Westerners accused of "proselytizing", "threatening them with the death penalty," complained Ibrahim.
"The unspoken fact is that these attacks are products of Islamic teachings...that challenging the truths of Islam with another set of truths—such as the Gospel—is strictly forbidden, often on pain of death."
(BosNewsLife, the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians, is 'Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals' since 2004).
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