Four foreigners were detained last week in Benghazi, Libya, on charges of printing and distributing materials that promote Christianity. The embattled missionaries are from South Africa, South Korea, Egypt and Sweden, with the latter individual also holding U.S. citizenship. Despite a revolution just two years ago, it is still illegal to share any faith other than Islam, with the death penalty serving as a potential ramification.
According to Hussein Bin Hmeid, a security official in Libya, the missionaries’ actions are viewed as a national security concern. The four individuals in question were, thus, detained last Tuesday on charges that they printed thousands of Christian books. Police claim that 45,000 texts were found in their possession, with 25,000 having already been handed out.
“They were arrested on Tuesday at a publishing house where they were printing thousands of books that called for conversion to Christianity,” Hmeid told Reuters. “Proselytizing is forbidden in Libya.”
As of Saturday, officials that are part of Libya’s Preventative Security team, a body created during the 2011 war, were still interrogating the alleged missionaries. And the Guardian reported the following on Sunday:
All four remain in custody in Benghazi, and local reports say they may appear in court next week.
It is reported that the foreigners, who have received consulate assistance from their embassies, have been in Libya for some time and had contracted a local printer to produce pamphlets explaining Christianity. Security officials have focused on those pamphlets said to have already been distributed.
Benghazi lawyer and human rights activist Bilal Bettamer said Libya was a wholly Muslim country and Christians should not be trying to spread their faith. “It is disrespectful. If we had Christianity we could have dialogue, but you can’t just spread Christianity,” he said. “The maximum penalty is the death penalty. It’s a dangerous thing to do.”
There is no known Christian minority in Libya, showcasing just how foreign Christian ideals are in the North African country. This is the first known arrest for proselytizing since the revolution.
(H/T: Christianity Today)