By BosNewsLife News Center
TRIPOLI/ROME/WASHINGTON (BosNewsLife)– Italian police say they have detained 15 Muslims who allegedly threw 12 Christians from an overcrowded migrant boat after they expressed faith in Jesus Christ. Vatican Radio, citing survivors, reported that the Christians had been praying for their lives during a recent crossing from Libya.
Palermo police said they had detained the suspects in the high seas assault after interviewing tearful survivors from Nigeria and Ghana who were rescued at sea.
Survivors reportedly told investigators they had boarded a rubber boat April 14 on the Libyan coast with 105 passengers aboard. They were part of a wave of migrants taking advantage of calm seas and warm weather to make the risky crossing from Libya, where most smuggling operations originate.
During the crossing, the migrants from Nigeria and Ghana — believed to be Christians — were allegedly threatened with being abandoned at sea by some 15 other passengers from the Ivory Coast, Senegal, Mali and Guinea Bissau.
Eventually the threat was carried out and 12 were pushed overboard and drowned in the Mediterranean Sea. Police said the motive was that the victims “professed the Christian faith while the aggressors were Muslim.”
Speaking at the White House, visiting Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi apparently tried to play down the incident saying “The problem is not a problem of clash of religions.” He added, “It’s a problem of human dignity. We are absolutely committed to solve this problem, and I am confident if this become a priority…”
Dave Boyer, a White House correspondent for The Washington Times newspaper, noted that U.S. President Barack Obama did not address the issue while standing next to the Italian prime minister. “Mr. Obama, who sometimes offers answers to questions posed to his
foreign counterparts at joint press conferences, remained silent on the subject.”
Italy’s Renzi said 91 percent of the people who came from Africa to Italy come from Libya.
“Obviously, it is not easy. We work every day to find a solution with the United Nations and then with the other partners and the friends and allies in the region,” Renzi added. “But I think the only way is [to] come back to stability in Libya.”
It was unclear why Renzi played down reports that Christian migrants were targeted for their faith. Rights activists say Christians are facing increased attacks in Libya.
In one of the most known cases some 21 Egyptian Christians were beheaded in February by Islamic State militants in Libya after they refused to abandon their faith in Jesus Christ. Some were seen saying their last prayers. As the blade came to their neck they all cried in unison “Ya Rabbi Yasou’” or ‘O My Lord Jesus’, according to a video and Christian experts.
The caption by Islamic State noted that “these insisted to remain in unbelief” and embrace Islam, BosNewsLife reported at the time.
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