Christians flee Libya after Islamists' threats

St Francis Catholic church in Tripoli, Libya.

Two religious communities left Cyrenaica, Libya, following deaths pronounced by Islamists in the North African country. The Vatican's diplomatic representative in Tripoli, Bishop Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli reported that the "situation is critical" in the eastern portion of the Muslim-majority country. According to Martinelli, "On February 20, large-scale demonstrations throughout Cyrenaica are expected so the Apostolic Vicar of Benghazi has been warned to leave the church from 13 February to take shelter."

 
Martinelli reported, according to the Fides news service, "In past days the Congregation of the Holy Family of Spoleto who had been there for nearly 100 years were forced to abandon Derna, and a Polish Salesian priest, who was abused by some fundamentalists. In Beida another women's religious community was forced to escape even if in this case, for internal reasons. In Barce the Franciscan Sisters of the Child Jesus will leave their home in coming days."
 
"Here in Tripoli so far the situation is relatively calm, but in Cyrenaica, the atmosphere is very tense," said Mgr. Martinelli, who added,  "We regret having to reduce our activities in that area because we have built a very strong and beautiful relationship, made of testimony and friendship with the Libyan people, which unfortunately in recent times has been affected by the presence of fundamentalists."
 
These do not represent the identity of the Libyan people but an expression of Libyan society today."He added, "As a Church we will take our precautions, but we cannot abandon the Christians who remain here. Two religious communities will remain in Benghazi, a small community in Tobruk and finally another small community of Indian sisters in Beida," said Mgr. Martinelli, who concludes:" We remain impoverished, but full of hope that one day our communities will resume force."


Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.

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