Recently, Libyan officials found the remains of dozens of Ethiopian Christians murdered by ISIS. The discovery occurred after the Libyan interior ministry interrogated detained members of the terrorist group. The bodies of the slain believers, who were killed in 2015, will soon be sent back to Ethiopia where they can be laid to rest with dignity.
Libyan officials reportedly uncovered the mass grave on December 23, 2018. It was dug on a piece of farmland located near the coastal city of Sirte. The city is situated approximately 170 miles southeast of Misrata. ISIS gained control of the coastal city in 2015. However, after months of deadly fighting, forces supported by the United Nations took the city back in December of 2016.
A graphic propaganda video posted to social media in April of 2015 seemed to depict ISIS militants shooting and beheading the Ethiopian believers wearing orange jumpsuits on a beach. The Christians had come to Libya to gain employment as migrant workers according to International Christian Concern. The 2015 slaying happened mere months after ISIS members killed a group of almost two dozen Coptic Christians in the region. A mass grave holding their remains was discovered in October of 2017.
At the time of their murders, Pope Francis said, “The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a testimony which cries out to be heard. It makes no difference whether they be Catholics, Orthodox, Copts or Protestants. They are Christians! Their blood is one and the same. Their blood confesses Christ.”
Sadly, ISIS and other extremist organizations still maintain strongholds in parts of Libya. Open Doors, a global Christian persecution watchdog, lists the country as the seventh most dangerous nation for believers. Only 41,000 of the estimated 6,409,000 people living in Libya are Christians. According to Open Doors, “most are foreigners in search of work or a means of reaching Europe by crossing the Mediterranean.” Most migrant believers in Libya come from sub-Saharan African countries. Besides religious intolerance, they also must deal with racial prejudice.
On its website, Open Doors revealed, “A state of anarchy and civil war in the country results in impunity for Islamic militants and organized criminal groups engaged in the persecution of Christian believers. The country also exerts a great deal of societal pressure, calling for family members to persecute converts from Muslim backgrounds.” These former Muslims often face particularly intense and violent persecution. Their families and the community at large relentlessly pressure them to renounce their Christian faith.
Allegedly, “Christian migrants from other parts of the continent are also targets of Islamic militant groups and organized criminal groups that kidnap and sometimes kill with shocking brutality.” Unfortunately, according to Open Doors, “Because no single central government exists to impose law and order in the country, most crimes against Christians go unpunished.”
In June of 2016, a Christian convert, who had previously fled Libya, was lured back to the country by her siblings. The believer’s siblings told her that her mother was suffering a serious illness. However, when she arrived in her homeland, the believer was beaten. Her family attempted to force her to marry a Muslim religious leader and coerced her to give up her Christian faith. The believer was barely able to escape with her life. In November of the same year, a Christian Libyan was arrested in Benghazi on charges of “proselytizing on social media and denigrating Islam” for sharing his faith on social media.
On Christmas Day 2018, ISIS militants launched yet another deadly attack on Libya. They drove a car bomb into the foreign ministry in the capital city of Tripoli. Three armed attackers ran inside of the building where two of them detonated suicide vests. The third militant was killed during a gunfight with ministry guards. ISIS claimed responsibility for the heinous act through AMAQ, its propaganda website. On AMAQ, the extremist organization bragged about striking at the heart of Libya’s government.
~ 1776 Christian