Wednesday, April 20, 2016

RLPB 353. Libya: Storm Clouds Gather

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 353 | Thu 21 Apr 2016

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By Elizabeth Kendal

Libya has multiple 'governments'. There is the General National Congress (GNC), which is based in the western city of Tripoli, Libya's capital. The GNC is backed by Libya Dawn (a jihadist coalition which includes many al-Qaeda-affiliated militias) and is committed to establishing an Islamic State. Then there is the ousted House of Representatives (HoR) or 'Tobruk Government', which is based in the eastern city of Tobruk and backed by the anti-Islamist, anti-jihadist Libyan National Army (LNA) under the command of Gen. Khalifa Haftar. In between them, al-Baghdadi's Islamic State / Caliphate (IS) controls at least 150km of coastline around Sirte. The 'international community' has entertained hopes that the Tripoli government might voluntarily integrate with the Tobruk government in a Government of National Accord (GNA) to form a unified front against IS. Though a UN-backed deal was brokered in December 2015, hardliners on both sides rejected the deal, with Islamists refusing to co-operate with nationalists and vice versa. Despite Western-UN backing, the GNA has neither 'legs' nor legitimacy. Nevertheless, it seems the GNA will soon invite Western powers to launch an anti-IS military intervention in Libya.

click on map to enlarge
While the UN was busy forming a 'unity government', senior leaders of Libya's Muslim Brotherhood and the al-Qaeda-affiliated Libyan Islamic Fighters Group (who were part of the Tripoli-based government) were busy reaching out to senior leaders of other al-Qaeda affiliates and to IS, proposing the creation of a unified Majlis Shura (Islamic consultative council / parliament). The Islamists know that unity is essential if they are to seize and hold Libya's oil infrastructure while resisting the Libyan National Army and any Western intervention. According to Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy, the official magazine of the International Strategic Studies Association, (Issue 3, 2016), efforts to forge jihadist unity have been phenomenally successful. The desire for unity is driven by the realisation that Libya would be the perfect launching place for Islamic jihad into Egypt and all North Africa, the Maghreb and the Sahel, as well as into Italy and all Europe. [Tripoli is only 300 km from the Italian island of Lampedusa, complete with harbour and airstrip.] To that end, IS’s Caliph Ibrahim (Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi) has deployed some of his most senior, experienced and widely respected commanders to Libya. He has also confirmed he is willing to work in unity with Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda affiliates without requiring them to pledge allegiance to the Caliphate. IS already has some 6500 fighters in Libya, of whom around 1000 are women (who will doubtless be used in suicide operations). Plans are already afoot to create an IS 'navy' (for ferrying migrants, piracy, and use as boat-bombs) and to acquire anti-ship missiles from Hamas.

Anglican Church Tripoli,
in better days
Hence it is highly probable that Libya will soon be aflame. The threat to the remnant Church is extreme. Furthermore, if the jihadists (led by IS) have success in Libya then Egypt will be in their sights, as will Italy and Rome (the goal). As a vulnerable, persecuted minority, Egypt's indigenous Christian Copts would be gravely and existentially imperilled, as would the vulnerable, largely Berber Church in Tunisia and Algeria. These minority Christians do not have state power or an army to protect them. Indeed -- everything is better when the jihadists are divided and at war with each other. We must not sit idly by as evil advances, 'for we are not ignorant of [Satan's] designs' (2 Corinthians 2:11).


* Yahweh Sabaoth, the Lord of Hosts, will intervene to 'throw [the jihadists] into great confusion, until they are destroyed' (from Deuteronomy 7). May they 'fade like the grass'; may their 'arms' (means of action) 'be broken'; may they 'vanish' like 'smoke'; may they be 'cut off' (from Psalm 37). May the LORD contend with them (from Isaiah 49:24-26)!

* Jesus Christ, having already bound the strongman [Satan] through the cross, will continue to 'plunder his house': i.e. liberate his captives/slaves; i.e. rescue the lost, including Muslims -- even jihadists and persecutors of the Church. (See Matthew 12:22-32)

* Christ will pour out his Spirit in great abundance on the remnant Church in Libya and across North Africa so that believers will have all the wisdom, faith, courage and grace they need to navigate the troubled days ahead. 'The Lord is my shepherd ...' (Psalm 23)


It appears likely that Libya's newly formed UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) will invite Western powers to launch an anti-IS military intervention in Libya. However, the GNA is rejected by both the Islamist government in Tripoli and the anti-Islamist government in Tobruk. Meanwhile, Libya's Islamic jihadists have united with the aim of capturing the oil fields and launching jihad into Egypt and across North Africa, as well as into Italy and across Europe -- hence the likelihood that Libya will soon be aflame. The threat to the remnant Libyan Church is extreme. If the jihadists succeed, the threat will spread explosively. Egypt's indigenous Christian Copts also would be gravely imperilled, as would the vulnerable, largely Berber Church in Tunisia and Algeria. Please pray for God to intervene in Libya.


Elizabeth Kendal is the author of Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat.

Elizabeth Kendal’s new book, After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East, is presently being published by Wipf and Stock (Eugene, OR, USA) and will be available shortly.