Published 15 September 2014 | International Christian Concern
Life in Libya has become extremely dangerous since the revolution that ousted Muammar Gaddafi. There is chaos in the Libyan streets and lives of Egyptian Christian workers are endangered every day.
Four Egyptians who were trying to return back to Egypt “were taken because of their religious identification; they were targeted because they are Christians,” their family told International Christian Concern (ICC).
Islamic militant groups like Ansar al-Sharia (Partisans of Islamic Law) control Libya and threaten the lives of Egyptian Christians who often go to Libya in search of work. Seven Copts were executed earlier this year by militant members of Ansar al-Sharia. Many of the Egyptian Christian workers in Libya hope to return to Egypt, but the roads to the airport and the roads to leave the country are all unsafe. They are afraid that the battalions of Ansar al-Sharia can reach them during their travels and kill them.
No Path of Escape
On Monday, August 25, at 10:30 p.m. three Egyptian Christian brothers Gamal Matta Hakim, Raafat Matta Hakim, Romany Matta Hakim, and their cousin, Adel Sedky Hakim were abducted by masked gunmen as they attempted to return to Egypt.
Wagih Matta Hakim, the brother of three of those abducted, told ICC that he had worked together with his brothers in Libya for a long time. They returned home to Asyut, Egypt four months ago, but then the contractor called and said he had work for them.
“My brothers and cousin had to travel again to Libya, although their lives there are endangered because they couldn’t find any work here to meet their families’ needs,” Wagih continued.
After finishing their work with the contractor, they felt that staying in Libya was unsafe and their lives were in danger, so they decided to return home, Wagih told ICC.
They and three Egyptian Muslim workers found a Libyan driver to drive them to the Egyptian border. On their way to Egypt, as they passed Sirte City, a group of armed, bearded men wearing Libyan military clothes stopped the microbus. The militants asked the seven passengers to show them their passports, Wagih relayed to ICC. When they found out that there were four Christians among the seven passengers, they ordered the four Christians to get out of the microbus and told the Libyan driver and the three other Egyptians to leave.
When the driver asked the gunmen about the reason for taking the four Christians and what they were going to do with them, the gunmen did not answer him, but again told him to leave, threatening to kill him if he didn’t leave.
The driver took the three Egyptian Muslims and fled, leaving the four Christians with the gunmen. The driver did not complete the trip to Egypt, but returned to Tripoli to try to help, Wagish said.
“One of the other Egyptians in the car was able to contact one of my cousins in Egypt and told us about what happened,” Wagih told ICC.
“After we heard the news, my cousin called his brother who is still in Libya to check on the details,” Wagih continued. “I have tried to call my brothers more times but their mobiles are shut off always and there is not any news about them.”
Wagih added, “On Wednesday, August 27, I went to the foreign ministry and the Libyan Embassy in Cairo and reported the situation.” So far there has been no report.
“I appeal the Egyptian foreign ministry to do its best and contact the responsible authorities in Libya to investigate the matter of four kidnapped Christians, because we are very worried about them.”
Targeted Because They Are Christians
Karam Heshmat, whose wife is the cousin of the four men, told ICC “On Tuesday, August 26, my wife received a call from her brother, Riffat Rasmy Basta, who is a resident of Asyut, telling her about the kidnapping of her cousins. This bad news shocked my wife and me.”
Karam continued, “My wife’s cousins were taken because of their religious identification, they were targeted because they are Christians.”
“There is a situation of sadness, worry and anxiety among all the members of the family because of the abductions of our four beloved. I’m afraid that the kidnappers belong to Ansar Al-Sharia and the fate of our four relatives will be the same fate of the Coptic Christians who were killed by these terrorist groups in Libya before.”
Still the family is holding out hope and continues to pray for their release and safe return.
“We pray to God for protecting them, delivering them from any evil and for their safe return to us soon,” Karam told ICC.
The situation of the Egyptian Christian workers who are still in Libya and cannot return to their homeland remains extremely dangerous and worsens over time; their lives are endangered every day, and there is no protection for them there.
To provide for the safe return of these four Egyptian Christian workers, the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs must intervene and work with the Libyan authorities.
As it is now, we will continue to see Christians in Libya targeted simply because they are Christians.