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Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Multiple sources, including international media, and the Arab Organization for Human Rights – Libya (AOHRL) continued to report a restrictive social environment for religious freedom throughout the country.  This included intense social and economic pressure on former Muslims to return to Islam.  NGOs and a UN agency stated Salafist interpretations of sharia increasingly contributed to this restrictive environment.  Religious minorities said converts to other religions, as well as atheists, agnostics, and other nonreligious persons, were threatened with violence or dismissal from employment because of their beliefs or lack of belief.  An atheist from Benghazi said he faced discrimination and had to publicly reaffirm faith in Islam (which contradicted his private beliefs) due to threats against his person by coworkers and Salafist militia groups.

Sources said Christians who converted from Islam practiced their faith in semi-secrecy.  Open Doors USA stated Christian citizens who were former Muslims faced violence and intense pressure from their families and communities to renounce their faith.  Christians said they felt pressure to refrain from missionary activities because of security threats and social pressure from the local community.  Catholic authorities also stated Christian migrants from sub-Saharan Africa were more likely to experience discrimination or extortion than Muslims from the same region.

Christian communities continued to exist in Tripoli, where Catholic, Anglican, and Protestant churches operated for foreigners.  Christian communities were also present in Misrata, al-Baida, Benghazi, Tubruq, Sebha, Ghat, Ubari, and Murzuq, among other cities.  In some cases, such as in Benghazi, Catholic communities continued to worship in places other than church buildings after ISIS destroyed church properties there in 2015.  The Catholic cathedral in Benghazi remained damaged and inaccessible after fighting occurred in 2013-15.

According to Human Rights Watch, in late 2017 unidentified individuals attacked two historic Sufi mosques in Tripoli.  Unidentified individuals set fire to the Sufi mosque, Zawiyat Sheikha Radiya, causing extensive damage, and destroyed the Sidi Abu Gharara Mosque.  There were no reported arrests related to the attacks by year’s end.

International Religious Freedom Reports
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U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future