Tripoli - "Not a day goes by without tombs being
vandalised," says Dalmasso Bruno, caretaker of the Italian cemetery in the
Libyan capital where Christians fear rising Muslim extremism.
"Human bones have been taken out of their tomb and
scattered across the cemetery" in central Tripoli, he said. "The
Libyan authorities came and took pictures. They promised to take measures but
nothing has been done."
Since the 2011 fall of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime, the small
Christian community's fears for its safety have increased, especially after a
church bombing in December killed two people in the Mediterranean town of
But despite such fears, dozens of worshippers mostly from
India, the Philippines and African nations attend mass each week at the
Catholic church of Saint Francis near central Tripoli to pray for security to
be restored in Libya.
"Look there are no security measures outside the church
and the faithful can move around freely around," said Father Dominique
But elsewhere in Libya, Christians are not so untroubled.
"In Cyrenaica, pressure has been exerted on Christians,
notably the nuns who had to leave their congregation ... in the east of the
country," said Father Rezeau.
He said Libya had as many as 100 000 Christians before the
2011 revolution that toppled Gaddafi. "Now only a few thousand remain".
The main Catholic Church's clergyman in Libya told the
Vatican missionary news agency Fides earlier this month that Christians are
being driven out of eastern Libya by Muslim fundamentalists.
The Apostolic Vicar of Tripoli, Giovanni Innocenzo
Martinelli, said the situation in that region was "critical" and the
"atmosphere very tense".
Two religious communities in the east of the country - the
Congregation of the Holy Family of Spoleto and the Franciscan Sisters of Child
Jesus - were forced to leave "after being pressured by fundamentalists".
The Apostolic Vicar of Benghazi has been advised to take
precautions ahead of a large-scale demonstration on 20 February, Martinelli
Libya's second city Benghazi was the cradle of the uprising
against Gaddafi’s dictatorial regime that erupted in February 2011, and the
eastern hub has since been at the forefront of Islamist-linked unrest.
Several international agencies and diplomatic missions have
come under attack, the deadliest being an 11 September assault on the US
consulate in Benghazi that killed ambassador Chris Stevens and three other
But the Catholic church in Benghazi remains open, Martinelli
Before the uprising, three percent of Libya's population of
around 6.3 million were Christian. Most of those who remain are expatriates,
including Egyptian Copts who form the largest community.
Violence and security
After mass at St Francis Church, the multinational
congregation gathers to socialise while a group of Nigerians in traditional
clothes set up a table to sell decorations made of wood.
Antony Amstrong, a Ghanaian who has been teaching French in
Libya for the past two decades, deplored the rampant "violence and
security" since the anti-Gaddafi uprising.
"All the sacrifice made by Libyans and the price they
paid have not brought stability to this country," Amstrong said.
Ftsing Giscard, an electrician from Cameroon who has been
living in Libya for three years, agreed.
"Insecurity is a problem that affects everyone,"
he said, stressing that Africans are most at risk because "Libyans accuse
them of being mercenaries who fought alongside Gaddafi’s forces."