10/16/2013, 00.00
LIBYA

With the country at the mercy of Islamists and criminals, Libya asks the Church to leave

Sources tell AsiaNews about a country split in two. Chaos and violence prevail in Benghazi and Cyrenaica. Under constant threats, nuns, priests and Catholic staff cannot work. In Tripoli, where men and women religious care for sick migrants, criminal gangs can strike at any time. Eritreans, Somalis, Malians and immigrants from other parts of Africa hide away in convents for fear of being killed.

Tripoli (AsiaNews) - Lack of security, threats to those who help migrants, robberies and violence are making Libya, especially Cyrenaica, a lawless land, where armed Islamist gangs have taken the place of the police. This situation is a threat to the existence of the Catholic Church in the country. Instead of taking appropriate measures, the government is urging churchmen and women to flee.

Because of "The lack of security [. . .] most religious communities that came to work in public health at the request of the Libyan authorities have been asked to leave the country," said Mgr Vincent Landel, archbishop of Rabat (Morocco) and President of the Episcopal Conference of North Africa.

Nuns, doctors and nurses, mostly from the Philippines, have worked for years in Libyan hospitals, taking care of the sick and the elderly. During the war, clinics and hospitals run by the religious were the only ones operating.

Libya is divided in two now, sources, anonymous for security reasons, told AsiaNews. "In Benghazi, the Church is under constant threats and it is now almost impossible to work. The situation is very risky."

Earlier this year, several orders had to abandon their convents after 40 years of mission. Now another wave might leave the whole of Cyrenaica without any Catholic presence.

The situation is at a breaking point, sources explained. The only place where one can still work is Tripoli.

"The city is safe for the moment," they noted. "This allows [health] operators and the Sisters of Charity to help the hundreds of migrants who come to the city every day, waiting to find the money to flee to Europe. Yet, we need to tread very carefully because even in the capital, armed gangs roam the streets and no one can be trusted. Migrants are hiding in convents and private homes to avoid being robbed or killed." (S.C.)

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