The Libyan government has now arrested seven people for preaching the gospel and tortured at least one, claiming the missionaries are a threat to national security.
Morningstar News reported that among the seven arrested are at least three Egyptians, in addition to a Swedish-American missionary, a South African and a South Korean.
Middle East analyst Raymond Ibrahim reported that the leader of the Libyan security forces, Hussein Bin Hmeid, claimed the missionary activities threaten Libya’s “national security.”
Bin Hmeid tried to justify the Islamic ban on free speech, Ibrahim said, noting proselytizing is forbidden in Libya.
The Libyan official said: “We are a 100-percent Muslim country, and this kind of action affects our national security.”
Ibrahim pointed out that “Muslim governments – most notably Iran’s – constantly suppress any talk of Christianity, claiming it threatens ‘our national security.’”
Arrrests for promoting another religion as an act of preserving “national security” underscores what Ibrahim called a “tribal mentality.”
International Christian Concern Middle East analyst Aidan Clay noted that in Libya, Egypt and several Middle Eastern countries, “Islamists have gained significant political influence, and sentences against proselytizing, blasphemy and apostasy are being enforced to an extent never seen under former dictatorships.”
He added that Libya is showing its true intentions with the arrest of the seven foreigners. However, he said the arrest of the seven is only one of several anti-Christian actions.
In December, two Egyptian Christians were killed in a bomb blast at a Coptic church in the Mediterranean town of Dafniya, Clay said.
“Christian graves have also been routinely vandalized in the country for more than a year.”
More recently, Catholic nuns living in three communities in eastern Libya left their congregations following increasing threats by Islamists, he said.
Citing Father Dominique Rezeau, Clay said there were as many as 100,000 Christians in Libya before the country’s revolution, primarily among the expatriate community, but today only a few thousand remain.
He anticipates that conditions for Libya’s small Christian community will only grow more severe.
“Islamists are growing bolder with every new accusation against a Christian or other minority for proselytizing or being involved in some other type of ‘illegal’ religious activity. Sadly, the arrests of Christians and attacks on the Christian community are bound to escalate as a result,” he said.
Ibrahim said public pressure can help secure the release of the prisoners.
“As for publicity helping secure their releases, based on my observations, yes: whenever the plight of a Christian minority suffering under Islam’s anti-Christian laws actually gets sufficient media attention – like the Iranian pastor and the Pakistani girl – they are eventually released,” he said.
Ibrahim added that he doesn’t expect any protests from the White House.
“As for Obama – considering the extent he and his administration went to cover up the Benghazi diplomatic facility attack – I do not expect he will want to address this matter, either,” he said. “For, once again, we get to see how the government he helped install is no friend to freedom, to Americans, or to Christianity.”