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Libya arrests US citizens over Christian proselytising

Libyan security forces also said they have arrested two Libyans for converting to Christianity
Libyan security forces affiliated with Tripoli-based interim Prime Minister Abdelhamid Dbeibah on 17 December 2022.
Libyan security forces affiliated with Tripoli-based interim Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, on 17 December 2022 (AFP)

Libyan security forces said on Thursday they had arrested a second US citizen for alleged Christian proselytising in the North African nation.

The arrest came a day after another US citizen, who was also teaching at the same private language school in the capital Tripoli, was detained for "inciting our children to renounce Islam and convert to Christianity".

On Thursday, the Internal Security Agency said it had arrested the centre's assistant director in Tripoli, identifying him by the initials "SBO".

It accused him of operating "in the company of his wife as a missionary on behalf of the organisation 'Assemblies of God' in order to seduce the sons of our Muslim people".

Assemblies of God is a missionary organisation based in the southern US state of Arkansas. 

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While the security forces have not named the man arrested on Wednesday, Libyan media identified him as Jeff Wilson, founder of the consulting firm, Libya Business.

A State Department spokesperson told Middle East Eye that the US was "aware of reports that a US citizen was detained for a period of time in Tripoli, Libya”.

“When a US citizen is detained overseas, the Department works to provide all appropriate assistance,” they said, adding that the State Department maintains a “Do Not Travel” advisory on Libya, citing risks of crime, terrorism, civil unrest, kidnapping, and armed conflict.

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In addition to the foreign arrests, Libyan security forces said Thursday they had also arrested two Libyans, including a 22-year-old woman over her alleged conversion to Christianity at the age of 15.

In a video, she describes how she in turn became a "missionary" and tried to persuade other Libyans to switch faiths.

It is the latest of a handful of video "confessions" of "apostasy" in Libya.

Islam is considered the state religion in Libya, and while Christians have the freedom to worship there, the majority are foreigners living in the country.

Christians have faced persecution and discrimination in Libya. Six Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Christians were kidnapped in February by a criminal gang in western Libya for ransom. They were released the same month. 

Control of Libya is divided between two rival governments, the latest configuration in years of turmoil since the 2011 Nato-backed uprising that toppled former dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

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