There are only 150 known Libyan believers in Libya. Libyans are all considered to be Muslims; in the minds of the Libyan people, being Libyan and leaving Islam is an impossibility. The trouble for new believers really starts when they speak out about Jesus.
In the dynamic of this country, Christians are only a very small group. All new believers start as isolated believers because they come to Jesus because of dreams or because of Christian television or websites. When they convert, they need to find their way, how to keep it a secret from their family, and how they can continue a normal life.
So, in the beginning, no one will perceive that the new convert is a Christian. To the outside world many continue to live as Muslims. They go to the mosque and perform their prayers, but in their hearts they pray to Jesus and don’t pray the Muslim prayers.
Four Libyan women, a mother and her three daughters, are an example of this. Lucy* came to faith via an Egyptian channel on satellite TV. She shared her faith boldly with her two sisters, and they also came to faith. Their mother discovered that there was something going on with her daughters. But after some time she also became a follower of Jesus. Thanks to you, Open Doors can be involved in media outreach to the Middle East and North Africa.
The women are living in a town in the desert country. For now, the rest of the family doesn’t know what happened to the four women. No one would find out about them being Christians. All that time they participated in every Islamic festival, they went to the mosque, and they continued with their Islamic lifestyle.
THEY DON’T FULLY GRASP WHAT BEING A CHRISTIAN REALLY MEANS
After some time – this could be years – the normal tendency of all isolated believers is that they try to connect with other believers. In the region we support a network of follow-up workers, who help the new believers to continue their life with Jesus.
The four women managed to get into contact with another Christian via telephone. Finally they could ask all the questions they still had. Very practical ones: How do I live as a Christian? How often do I need to pray, and how should I do that? How does fasting work? What is a Christian marriage?
You could say that many don’t fully grasp what being a Christian really means. They accepted Jesus, they had experiences with Him, but they cannot share about that with others. As soon as they start doing things differently from what people around them are used to, they’ll get into trouble.
“They all try to keep a low profile as Christians. They search the internet for possibilities to connect with other Christians. But as soon as someone finds out about their faith, problems start, hard persecution starts.
In Libya, there are examples of youth who were taken from school, from their studies. They are seen as a scandal for the wider family, they are beaten up, sometimes handed over to one of the militia, so that they might ‘re-educate’ the boy. Others get put under house arrest.
NO ONE SEEMS TO TRUST OTHERS
In the other North African countries, it is easier for a new follower of Jesus to connect with other Christians. In Libya they need to be very cautious – they won’t easily trust one another, and they are always aware that something terrible could happen. In the country there is a big problem with distrust – no one seems to trust others. This is something left over from the time the country was led by the dictator Gadhafi. So, or them, it’s terribly difficult to trust that another believer really is a believer and will be as cautious as you yourself are.”
LIBYA ranks no.4 in the 2019 WORLD WATCH LIST. The life of a new-born Christian in Libya means loneliness, but they all have a strategy to survive as a believer. Those new believers need you to support them through the Christian television, the follow-up team, the discipleship workers in the region, and, when really necessary, with a safe house where they can stay.
*Name changed for security reason
Open Doors’ goal is to “strengthen what remains and is about to die” (Rev 3:2). This verse is especially applicable to the situation of the Libya, Somali, Afghanistan and North Korean church. Without your support, many Christians in these underground churches would not survive.