It is no surprise that violence against Christians in Islamic has been growing exponentially, with countries like Egypt and Libya heading the list of aggressors. Now another 48 Egyptian Christians suspected of trying to convert Muslims to Christianity have been arrested in Benghazi, bringing the total of detained Copts to around 100.
“Forty-eight Egyptian traders who worked in the Benghazi municipal market have been arrested based on reports of suspect activities,” an unnamed source told AFP.
The man, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the additional men arrested were in possession of Bibles and texts bearing images of Christ and the late Coptic Christian Pope Shenuda, urging conversion to Christianity.
None of the materials, according to the source, were for “personal use.”
While the crime of proselytizing bears grave punishment under sharia law, the main charge against the Christians, in this instance, is illegal entry into Libya.
Disturbingly, a video posted online that features dozens of men with shaved heads squatted on the floor of small room while one bearded Libyan conveys the story of how each of the detainees had been arrested on charges of proselytizing. The video is featured below:
Coptic archbishop of Libya, Bishop Pachomios told the Egyptian newspaper Ahram that "it doesn't make sense that as many as 100 Egyptian Copts had decided to engage in proselytizing activities in another country."
Thus far, Egyptian Copts have beseeched the Arab League to secure the release of their counterparts.
“I wrote to the head of the Arab League Nabeel Al Arabi seeking his help in releasing them because Libya is a member of his organization,” said Najib Gabriel, a Coptic chairman of the Egyptian Human Rights Union Organisation.
“The Egyptian Foreign Ministry has failed to do something for those citizens being held in Libya,” he told the newspaper Al Tahrir on Friday.
“Their detention is illegal and violates the international law, which knows no charge as proselytism,” said Gabriel. “When arrested, they were not engaged in proselytism. They were just having pictures of the Christ and the (late Coptic) Pope Shenouda, things always carried by Christians to invoke blessings.”
Gabriel threatened to turn to the UN Human Rights Council if the Arab League fails to cooperate, according to Gulf News. Meanwhile, local officials in Libya say the men are being treated well and would be deported following an investigation over illegal immigration has been conducted.