Libyans are celebrating in the streets over the death of ex-Libyan Leader Muammar Gaddafi.
But now that the Libyan revolution is over, how will it affect that nation’s Christian minority? Will democracy and freedom flourish?
‘We declare to the whole world that we have liberated our beloved country, with its cities, villages, hill-tops, mountains, deserts and skies,’ said Salah el Ghazal with the National Transitional Council.
So, what’s next? Medical Teams International has been working in Libya for the last couple of months. The ministry’s president Bas Vanderzalm said Christians need to pray for Libya regarding “the opportunities that they have to actually establish a better government there. There are going to be a lot of tribal concerns and other challenges for them.” Pray also for Libya regarding “opportunities for us as Christian organizations to reach out to people of that country and care for them and show them Christ’s love,” he advised.
Libya ranks 25th on Open Doors’ World Watch list of countries that allow persecution of Christians. However, Vanderzalm is optimistic: “The people of Libya are grateful for the support they have received from Christian organizations, and I think they will provide freedom for those groups. I really do hope the persecution ends and there will be more freedom and space for the church there.”
Will Gaddafi’s death allow Medical Teams to commit long term? “We’re waiting to see where the Lord leads in this regard,” Vanderzalm says. “We’ve been asked by the transitional government and leaders there to help with those who have lost their limbs because of the fighting. We’re going to pray about that and see what God might be leading us to do. If there’s a way we can care for people in the name of Christ, we’re going to do that.”
Many are concerned that Libya could be another Egypt — with the Mubarak government deposed, creating a power vacuum motivating Muslim extremists, Christian Coptics and secular moderates vying for power.
“I think there is reason to be concerned about that,” said Vanderzalm. “There’s strong tribal differences in the country. When you have one common enemy, it unites you; but when that enemy is gone, then suddenly the pressure to stay together is gone.”
The Vatican said the Libyan conflict had been “too long and tragic” and should prompt reflection on the “cost of immense human suffering” that accompanies the collapse of systems not founded on respect for human rights. A spokesman for the Pope encouraged the new Libyan government to try to prevent further violence caused by a spirit of revenge and to begin a program of pacification. The international community, it said, should provide generous aid toward the reconstruction of the country.
David Innes of Arab World Ministries told the British website Christian Post that “there is a real need for sacrificial prayer.”
“We would like to see a massive movement of prayer among Christians,” he said. “God is moving and we can partner with God in prayer. We can look on with interest and with comment, but even better than that is to pray and seek God and ask that His Kingdom come and His will be done in Libya.”
Christians in Libya are asking the Church to pray for them during this period of transition, said Innes. He asked that Christians pray for the kind of government that would be right for Libya and “best for the Kingdom.”
Estimates as to the number of Christians in Libya vary from a few thousand to 150,000.
Innes said that although Islamist groups had strengthened in other Arabic nations during the Arab Spring, he is hopeful.
He said 6,000 Christians had responded to an article about Libya on Facebook page, with around 180 getting in touch with his group directly.
“When you open that door it’s hard to shut it,” he said. “We’ve even had testimonies of some who have come to faith in Libya during this time so already we’ve seen growth and we are really praying that no matter what happens politically, the church will be strengthened and be bold, and that this door that’s been opened will bear fruit.”