Libya: Islamic State parades dozens of Coptic Christians

Libya beach

The Australian Coptic Movement Association condemns the ongoing abduction and persecution of Coptic Christians in Libya. Coptic Christian migrants had made up the majority of Libya’s Christian minority. Coptic churches have been bombed and many Copts have been brutally killed or taken captive by Islamist militants. The International Community has ignored the plight of Christians in North Africa and the wider Middle East.

The Islamic State in Libya has paraded dozen of Egyptian Coptic Christian along a beach in Libya threatening to execute all of them accusing them of being ‘Coptic Crusaders’. They have made the outrageous claim that they are avenging the persecution of Muslim women in Egypt by Copts.

The Australian Coptic Movement Association’s representations on this issue have fallen on death ears. We have consistently advocated on behalf of Egyptian Christians in Libya for many years.

History of terror for Libya’s Copts

The prevalence of targeted abductions and killings of Copts working in Libya has increased since the ouster of Mohammed Gaddafi in 2011. There are a series of reports that document brutal murders, hostages and abductions of Copts for no reason other than their religious identification as well as attacks on their property. This statement details particularly disturbing instances of abductions and persecution.

Murder of Copts in Libya

In February 2014, seven Copts, stone masons by trade, were executed in Benghazi. This is the second time Copts have been targeted in Benghazi. In March 2013, a Copt was tortured to death in a Libyan prison, after being arrested with several dozen other Copts by Benghazi militia for charges of illegal proselytizing.

In August 2014, four Copts – Gamal Matta Hakim, Raafat Matta Hakim, Romany Matta Hakim and Adly Sedky Hamim – were abducted in Libya. These Copts were passengers on a microbus from Libya to Egypt with fellow Muslims following completion of work with a contractor. Masked gunmen stopped their vehicle and asked for identification. The masked gunmen then ordered Copts to disembark and for the driver to depart with the rest of the passengers. When the driver enquired as to why the gunmen asked for the Copts, the gunmen responded saying that he should leave or risk being killed. The driver left with the rest of the passengers leaving the Copts behind with their kidnappers. The fate of these Copts is unknown.

On Tuesday 24 December 2014, An Egyptian Coptic Christian couple were murdered in the city of Sirte some 500 kilometres east of Tripoli. Their daughter was abducted and later found dead. The attack was motivated by their ethnicity and religion i.e. being of Egyptian Coptic Christian background.
Abduction of Copts in Libya

Abduction of Sarah Ishaq Abdelmalak

Sarah Ishaq Abdelmalek was abducted in September 2012 while on her way to school in Egypt. The abductee’s father filed a missing person report. The Salafi Front claimed Sarah had converted to Islam and married a Muslim man even though she was under the minimum legal age. A Coptic association, which campaigns around cases of Coptic females allegedly kidnapped and forced into conversion to Islam, filed a lawsuit with the public prosecution against the Salafi Front. The ACM is concerned that there are allegations that Sarah was smuggled across the borders to Libya with the aid and knowledge of Egyptian authorities.

Attacks on places of worship in Libya

Places of worship are targeted such as the bomb attack on a Coptic church in Libya’s third largest city, Misrata in December 2012, leading up to the traditional New Year’s Eve mass. According to Egypt’s Foreign Ministry, the explosion killed two Egyptian citizens and wounded two others. Further, the Egyptian Coptic Church is Benghazi was set ablaze and two priests assaulted in separate incidents in 2013.

The upsurge in attacks on Coptic Christians in Libya since the ouster of Gaddafi is of grave concern. The ACM condemns these abductions, killings and attacks on Coptic property in what is becoming an increasingly inhospitable region for Copts. We call for the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to intervene and work with the Libyan authorities. We call for the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to protect Egyptians living in Libya in light of the instability and increased risk of persecution. The Egyptian and Libyan Government must apprehend the perpetrators of these heinous crimes and ensure that there is justice for the victims and their families. The International Community also shares responsibility in this case following the downfall of Gaddafi and the subsequent security vacuum that ensued.

* The ACM has been working hard for our community since 2010. We have held rallies, vigils, seminars, conferences and published a historic book. Contact us today to become a member by emailing or make a donation to help with our mission.
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