Christians Concerned Over Libya's Sharia Law Decision

Libya's National Assembly recently voted to make Sharia the foundation of state institutions and all legislation, including the coming constitution. The edict has raised serious concerns over the future of the North African nation's Coptic Christians who are already being persecuted.

"NATO went to war in Libya on the basis of a full democracy," Patrick Sookhdeo, international director for Christian human rights group The Barnabus Fund, told Fox News. "But what we have ended up with is a fractured government in which religious extremism of the worst kind has now taken over the government."

Local Christians of Libya have been facing persecution on the hands of Islamists who have become highly influential after the 2011 revolution toppled dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

The General National Congress decided last month to adopt the Islamic Sharia law. "Islamic law is the source of legislation in Libya," the GNC said in a statement at the time. "All state institutions need to comply with this."

This means Islam will shape banking, criminal and financial cases. The Muslim Brotherhood's Justice and Construction party is influential in Libya, a mostly desert and oil-rich country.

This will not allow Libya to become a fair and just society, especially for the religious minorities, Sookhdeo said, citing the example of Egypt.

The ousting of Egypt's longtime autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak resulted in strengthening of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose leader Mohamed Morsi became president and sought to Islamize that nation. Morsi was later removed by the military.

"They (Christians) will not have full citizenship," Sookhdeo said, referring to Morsi's ouster when his administration attempted to implement similar legislation.

The edict came even as Christians had increasingly been concerned about their safety since a December 2012 church bombing killed two people in the Mediterranean town of Dafniya.

Last December, American teacher Ronnie Smith was shot and killed in the eastern city of Benghazi.

Smith, a Texas native who served as a deacon in his home church, Austin Stone Community Church, was teaching chemistry at the International School in Benghazi. He was killed by gunmen riding in a black jeep while he was out jogging on the morning of Dec. 5. The gunmen were suspected to be Islamist militants.

It was learned that Smith depended on his faith in Jesus Christ alone while working in Libya, and had decided to move to that restive nation after listening to a message by preacher John Piper, according to reports.

"I want to go where no one could find a church if they wanted to, where no one has access to this gospel," Smith said in a video before moving to Libya. "No matter what happens, I'm good. That gives me peace, and I'm OK with that."

Last February, Libyan authorities arrested four foreigners on suspicion of distributing Christian books and proselytizing in Benghazi. Evangelism in the "100 percent Muslim" nation is a crime, asserted police, who allowed Islamist extremists to drive Christians out of Libya.

The suspected missionaries were from South Africa, Egypt and South Korea, and one held both Swedish and U.S. nationality. Police said they found 45,000 books in their possession and that another 25,000 had already been distributed.

In August 2012, the National Transitional Council – which pledged to turn Libya into a pluralist, democratic state – handed over power to Libya's newly elected parliament, the GNC.

Local Christians have faced fiercer persecution. The number of Christians has sharply declined since the 2011 revolution.

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