According to the U.S.-based persecution watchdog group International Christian Concern (ICC), at least 17 Egyptian Coptic Christians have gone missing in Libya since September 30.
Some friends and family members of the missing Christians, who were living in the Egyptian neighborhood of Tripoli, say they were detained by the authorities. Still, others say they were kidnapped by an armed group because of their faith.
“Even now, there [is] no confirmed news,” a lawyer of one of the missing Christians said. “(My friend) Emad Nasr and the other Copts traveled to Libya three months ago. They headed to the United Arab Emirates and then to Libya because there are no direct airlines to Libya.”
“The Copts had visas for Libya (labor visas), but they failed to get work opportunities, and the costs of renewing the visas are high,” he added. “So the police of Libya detained them from September 30 until now.”
According to The Christian Post, the lawyer also expressed concerns that the missing Christians could meet a similar fate to the 21 Coptic Christians who were beheaded by ISIS in 2015.
“The Copts were staying in the Gargash District in Tripoli. In this residency, they were surrounded by so many persons of other countries like India and Bangladesh. So the action of detaining 17 Copts only is such a mysterious action! We are fearing of repeating an incident like the one who did by ISIS,” he warned. “We are contacting the Egyptian Foreign Ministry to intervene in the situation.”
“This is a frightening time for Egyptian Christians, regardless of whether their family or friends are among those missing,” Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager for the Middle East, added. “The memory of ISIS marching Coptic Christians down a Libyan beach to their deaths runs deep; it was an event that was traumatic for all of Egypt’s Christians, an event that held serious implications for everyone.
“We urge the relevant authorities to do everything possible to investigate the cause of this latest disappearance, to bring these men home alive, and the perpetrators to justice.”
According to Open Doors USA, Libya is ranked number 4 on its list of countries where Christians face the most persecution.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Eddeb
Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer. He is also the co-hosts of the For Your Soul podcast, which seeks to equip the church with biblical truth and sound doctrine. Visit his blog Blessed Are The Forgiven.