By BosNewsLife Africa Service with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
TRIPOLI, LIBYA (BosNewsLife)– Libyan Christians risked their lives to meet in prayer in the capital Tripoli Wednesday, August 24, as fugitive Moammar Gadhafi assured “martyrdom or victory” in the battle against his opponents who he called “aggressors”, Christian aid workers said.
The believers reportedly prayed Wednesday, August 24, for the country and the future of Christians throughout the northern African nation.
Christian aid and advocacy group Open Doors cited its country coordinator for Libya as saying: “Every day around noon, a part of the small Christian community gathers to encourage each other.”
He spoke on condition of anonymity amid security concerns amid ongoing fighting in several areas of Tripoli and outside the capital.
Open Doors said it estimates there are some 150 indigenous Libyan Christians.
However, prior to the start of the revolution, the expatriate Christian community was believed to be roughly 180,000, it said. Large numbers of migrant workers reportedly left Libya after the revolt that started February 15, but a small number of foreign Christians remain in Libya.
CHURCH DESPITE FIGHTING
“Today a group of Christians from Tripoli shared with me that they are doing well and said the atmosphere is okay,” the Open Doors worker said. “Also, the church is still in good condition and undamaged despite fighting in the capital.”
Libya’s new masters of the opposition National Transition Council offered Wednesday, August 25, a $1.7 million bounty for Gadhafi’s capture, dead or alive, after he urged his men to carry on a battle that kept the capital in a state of fear.
The Open Doors coordinator acknowledged that Christians are facing difficulties. “Believers from African origin are not going outside the city for their own safety, but otherwise everyone is safe.”
The country coordinator added: “Getting in touch with Christians in Tripoli is not easy. Phone service is off and on or not answered, but I understand that the Internet is up in Tripoli again, so I expect communication opportunities will improve in the next few days.”
SITUATION IS CHANGING
He also expressed concerns about the church future. “The situation will change, that is for sure, but will Christians gain from the change? Will there be more religious freedom under a new administration? No one knows. The government will be Islamic, but the question remains how strict it will be and how strong fundamentalist influences will be shaping the new Libya.”
Western leaders who backed the revolt with NATO air power remained wary of declaring outright victory while the 69-year-old Gaddafi is at large. He issued a rambling but defiant audio message overnight to remaining bastions of his supporters, some of whom may be tempted to mount an Iraq-style insurgency, Reuters news agency reported.
The Open Doors coordinator said that “Seeing the disorder of the rebels, it remains to be seen if Libya stays united. It is very much a tribal society and may even split into the two or three original provinces – Fezzan, Tripolitania and Cyrenaica, the latter we know as Cyrene from the Bible.”
Yet, a day after rebel forces overran his Tripoli headquarters and trashed what they viewed as the symbols of his 42-year dictatorship, rocket and machinegun fire from pockets of loyalists kept the irregular fighters at bay as they tried to hunt down Gadhafi and his sons, reporters said.
CHRISTIAN PRAYERS URGED
The Open Doors worker said that prayer by Christians inside and outside Libya is vital as the rebels attempt to take control of the government.
“No matter what the geographical and governmental future of the country, I hope and pray that local Libyan Christians find safe opportunities to meet with each other and have fellowship that will help the church to plant roots deep into Libyan society. Please pray for the Christians there,” the worker said.
Libya is ranked number on the Open Doors 2011 World Watch List of what it describes as “the 50 worst persecutors of Christians.”
About 100 million Christians worldwide suffer interrogation, arrest and even death for their faith in Christ, with millions more facing discrimination and alienation, Open Doors said.
Open Doors supports and strengthens believers in what it calls “the world’s most difficult areas” through Bible and Christian literature distribution, leadership training and assistance. It is also involved in Christian community development, prayer and advocacy on behalf of suffering believers.