Benghazi (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Unidentified persons have set fire to the Coptic Orthodox Church of St. Mark in Benghazi. This is confirmed in a statement by the Egyptian Foreign Ministry. There the authors of the act are as yet unknown. This is the second attack on the religious building. The first took place a few weeks ago. In December a group of Salafists planted a bomb near another Christian complex in Misrata. The explosion left two dead and dozens wounded.
Abdel-Salam al-Barghathi, a
security official in Benghazi said that his forces tried to stop a group of men
as they attacked the building on fire. According
to the agent this gesture was a kind of response to the anti-Libyan protest
that took place in Cairo after the death of Ezzat Atallah, a Christian of 45 who
died March 10 in a prison in Benghazi.
Ali al-Ashiry, Foreign Ministry secretary points out that Libya is in chaos, especially Cyrenaica, where Islamic militants are exploiting the security vacuum to carry out attacks against religious minorities.
Since Gaddafi's fall, the number of attacks against foreign residents has increased. The most affected are Egyptians, especially Catholic and Orthodox Copts. On 3 February, an armed group attacked a religious building in the capital of Cyrenaica and assaulted two Coptic clergymen, Fr Paul Isaac and his assistant. last month, four foreigners from Egypt, South Africa, South Korea and a Swede with a US passport were arrested for allegedly circulating Bibles and other religious material. They are currently in a Tripoli jail waiting for trial. On 28 February, the authorities arrested 48 Egyptian peddlers on charges of proselytising. Twenty were eventually sent home following the intervention of Egyptian authorities. Under pressure from the Egyptian Foreign Ministry 44 of them were released. On returning home they confessed that they were beaten and tortured.
Catholic religious orders have also been targeted by Muslim militias despite operating in the country for decades in hospitals and nursing homes. In January, Islamists forced the Ursuline Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus out of the city of Bayda.In October, the same thing happened to the Sisters of the Convent of the Sacred Family of Spoleto in Derna who felt they had to leave the city even though local residents wanted them to stay. (S.C.)