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Libyan Bishop Vows to Save the Faith in His Country

© Public Domain

Sylvain Dorient - published on 05/20/15 - updated on 06/07/17

If there's one Christian left, I will stay with him, says Bishop Martinelli of Tripoli

"If there is only one Christian left in Libya, I will stay with him," says Bishop Martinelli, Apostolic Vicar of Tripoli.

Bishop Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli announced to that he would not leave Libya as long as a single Christian remains there. He observed that the Christian community is reduced to a minimum and that the country is experiencing its most difficult time since the fall of Gaddafi. In Tripoli, heavy fighting between opposing factions has reduced the airport to ruins. In Cyrenaica, the situation is even more confusing, because of the presence of various armed groups who compete to control the area.

The port, the only escape route

The airport is unusable and the inhabitants of Tripoli can no longer rely on the land route to escape either: the road to the border is not safe. Yet Msg. Martinelli says: "I still trust in the future of Libya. We are in God’s hands." His parishioners are mostly Filipinos, many of them paramedics. The majority are women who have decided to stay because of the increasing health needs among the population. In particular, the closing of the Saint Jacques hospital, whose staff was recalled overseas, weighs heavily on the health facilities in the Libyan capital.

The Libyan chaos

The Libyan government, which accuses Qatar and Turkey of financing the terrorists, broke off all commercial operations with both countries. This tension became evident on Sunday, May 10 when a Turkish cargo ship that tried to enter the port of Tobruk became the target of shells fired by the Libyan army from the coast. A Turkish sailor died. Despite these drastic measures, the government is struggling to enforce its authority. Human Rights Watch noted that armed conflicts combined with the central authorities’ breakdown have eliminated any semblance of order in many parts of the country. The unbridled violence of numerous armed factions is pushing Libyans on the risky road of immigration towards Europe via the dangerous journey on the Mediterranean Sea.

Migrants are thrown overboard

The fate of those coming from sub-Saharan Africa is even worse. Despised, robbed, abused, over 170,000 of them tried to reach Europe via Libya in 2014. They also suffer from religious persecution as Charles, a Christian from Nigeria, quoted here by Amnesty International, discovered: "They stole our money and whipped us. I cannot complain to the police, explaining that I am a Christian, because they do not like us … In October 2014, four men kidnapped me, because they saw that I was carrying a Bible. "

Christians in the Middle East
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