TRIPOLI, LIBYA (BosNewsLife)– Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi said Tuesday, February 22, he would not resign and that he wants to die as a martyr in the country, a move that was expected to add to anxiety among minority Christians as the country moved towards civil war.
(ADDS MORE DETAILS, EXTENDED REPORT)
By BosNewsLife Africa and Middle East Services
Speaking on state television Tuesday, February 22, he urged Libyans to help defend his country against those who he claimed were stirring the unrest, people he referred to as “gangs” or “terrorists.”
Gadhafi said he is prepared to die as a “martyr” rather than leave, even as large eastern sections of the country appeared under the control of his opponents.
The Libyan leader spoke from what he described as a home that was bombed by the United States and Britain in 1986, underscoring his proclaimed will to continue the struggle to stay in power.
However Gadhafi is losing the support of key figures in his government as Libyan officials at home and abroad resign or defect in response to his deadly crackdown on the nationwide protests demanding his ouster, the Voice of America (VOA) network reported, citing several sources.
Libya’s embassies in Malaysia and Australia said they no longer represent Gadhafi, now facing the greatest challenge to his rule since taking power in 1969. It added to concerns about minority Christians in the Libya and elsewhere in the Arab world.
Christians in Libya are already facing Islamic extremism and analysts have suggested it remains unknown whether a new leadership would allow more religious freedom. “The chances are even slimmer there for change,” than in neighboring Egypt or Tunisia, where protests toppled leaders, said Paul Estabrooks, who represents advocacy and aid group Open Doors.
“The only thing might be in a more democratic type of government, an opportunity for minorities to be better protected,” he said in comments to broadcaster Mission Network News.
Libya, a heavily Islamic country, currently ranks number 25 on the Open Doors’ annual World Watch List of 50 nations known for their reported persecution of Christians. North Korea tops the list at number 1. While there are no laws that explicitly provide for religious freedom, the country adheres to Islamic law and all citizens are Sunni Muslims ‘by definition’, according to rights activists.
It is prohibited to evangelize to Muslims or distribute Arabic scriptures, according to Open Doors investigators. And, there have been reports of security forces attacking Christians, including former Muslims.
Small Christian communities are reportedly mainly containing expatriates. Especially evangelical Christians are known to meet in underground house churches, outside state control.
It was not immediately clear how Christians were able to protect themselves as Witnesses in Tripoli said Libyan helicopters and warplanes struck civilian areas Monday, while African mercenaries and pro-Gadhafi gunmen opened fire indiscriminately to terrorize the population.
Libyan state-run television said Tuesday, February 22, that foreign media reports of massacres in the country were “lies” aimed at destroying the morale of the public.