Tuesday, May 9, 2023

RLPB 693. Libya: Christians Arrested

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 693 | Wed 10 May 2023
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By Elizabeth Kendal

Arch of [Roman Emperor] Marcus Aurelius,
in Tripoli. Established AD165.

Six Christian Libyan nationals arrested during March and early April for apostasy (leaving Islam) and Christian proselytism (missionary work) could face the death penalty if found guilty. Two US citizens arrested around the same time for alleged Christian proselytism have been released and deported to Tunisia. The first American arrested has been identified as Jeff Wilson, founder of the consulting firm, Libya Business. The second American – an associate of Wilson, identified as 'SBO' – was arrested for ‘inciting our children to renounce Islam and convert to Christianity’, while teaching at a language school in the capital Tripoli. Some of the arrested Libyans are members of Libya’s non-Arab ethnic minority groups, including the indigenous Amazigh/Berbers.

Libya’s Internal Security Agency (ISA) has posted video footage on-line, showing each of the accused ‘confessing’ to their crimes. Middle East Eye reports (13 April) that in one video, a 22-year-old woman who converted to Christianity at the age of 15, confesses to having become a Christian missionary. Khartoum-based journalist Zeinab Mohammed Salih reports (Guardian, 3 May) that, in another video, Seyfao Madi, an engineer and father of one child, confesses that he converted to Christianity in 2017 and had tried to convert others. He says: ‘I joined a group of Libyans and foreigners inside Libya calling and circulating for Christianity. In 2016 my friend introduced me to other friends, among them a Christian from the US. We talked and discussed … then I converted the next year, and he baptised me.’ A lawyer who spoke to Zeinab Mohammed Salih on the condition he remain anonymous (for safety reasons), said Seyfao had renounced his Christian faith under torture.

Article One of the post-Gadhafi Constitutional Declaration of 2011 states: ‘Islam is the Religion of the State, and the principal source of legislation is Islamic Jurisprudence (Shari’a). The state shall guarantee for non-Moslems the freedom of practising religious rituals.’ Based as it is on Islamic Sharia, the Criminal Code is Islamist to the core: apostasy, blasphemy and proselytism are banned. The Libyan believers have been charged under Article 207 of the penal code, which punishes any attempt to circulate views that aim to ‘alter fundamental constitutional principles, or the fundamental structures of the social order’, or overthrow the state, and anyone who possess books, leaflets, drawings, slogans ‘or any other items’ that promote their cause. In its official statement, the ISA explained that they made the arrests to ‘stop an organised gang action aiming to solicit and to make people leave Islam’.

The US Department of State report on International Religious Freedom 2021 (published 2 June 2022), raises the plight of Nigerian pastor Femi Abraham Akinboye, who was arrested in Libya by an Islamist militia in July 2021. As the report explains, Salafi Islamists operate religious police forces throughout country that will arrest and punish anyone found violating their version of Islam. [Salafi Muslims seek to follow the traditions of the ‘pious predecessors’ (salaf) i.e. Muhammad and his companions.] While the militia did not give a formal reason for Pastor Akinboye’s arrest, a relative of the militiaman who detained the pastor reportedly said that he ‘should not have established a church in our country’. According to the US Dept of State report, Pastor Akinboye had been in the process of applying for a permit for the church, with the support of the Nigerian foreign ministry, when he was arrested. Open Door’s World Watch Research (Dec 2022) estimates that there are some 34,600 Christians in Libya; around 180 of whom are Libyan nationals, with the rest being migrant workers (Egyptians, Africans, Filipinos etc). Unlike the arrested Americans (who were quickly deported), Pastor Akinboye has not been released and the family’s repeated appeals to the Tripoli-based, US- and UN-backed, pro-Muslim Brotherhood Government of National Unity [that is ‘unity’ with Islamists] have yielded nothing.

Control Map, 9 Jan 2020
Green: territory held by the US- and UN-backed, pro-Islamist Government of National Unity/Accord (with support from pro-Muslim Brotherhood Turkey).
Salmon: territory held by the elected, anti-Islamist House of Representatives and Libyan National Army (with support from anti-Muslim Brotherhood Egypt, UAE and Russia).


* on behalf of the six Libyan believers arrested for leaving Islam and engaging in Christian missionary work (i.e. sharing their faith with Muslims). May the Holy Spirit sustain and comfort them; and may the God of all mercy deliver them. May the Lord’s angelic forces restrain violent hands. May our brother, Seyfao Madi, be comforted by the amazing grace of his Saviour, Jesus Christ.

* to facilitate the release and deportation of Nigerian pastor Femi Abraham Akinboye. Lord have mercy!

* to bring about peace, and liberate the state from the grip of Islam. Thank-you Father that al-Qaeda and Islamic State no longer hold any territory in Libya [an answer to our prayers of RLPB 353 (April 2016)]. Please now liberate Libya from the Islamists who hold political power in Tripoli; from the Salafi militias that police and terrorise the masses; and from the armed Islamists who persecute, torture and kill Christian migrants and foreign workers with impunity. Lord have mercy!


Six Christian Libyan nationals arrested during March and early April for apostasy (leaving Islam) and Christian proselytism (missionary work) could face the death penalty if found guilty. Videos of the detained believers ‘confessing’ to their ‘crimes’ have been posted on-line. One believer is a 22-year-old woman who became a follower of Christ aged 15. Another believer is reported to have renounced his faith under torture; may he be comforted by the amazing grace of his Saviour, Jesus Christ. Two US citizens arrested around the same time for alleged Christian proselytism have been released and deported to Tunisia. Meanwhile, Nigerian pastor Femi Abraham Akinboye – arrested by an Islamic militia in July 2021 while seeking a permit for the church he had established – remains detained, his fate unknown. Lord have mercy! Please pray.


Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate for the persecuted Church.

The Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) is a donor funded ministry. To support this ministry visit www.ElizabethKendal.com

Elizabeth has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016). She is also an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

For more information see www.ElizabethKendal.com