“I should stay! How can I leave the Christians alone?” These are the words of Bishop Giovanni Martinelli, Apostolic Vicar of Tripoli, in response to the Islamic State’s threats that it plans to take over the country and continue beheading Christians, as it did this past weekend, killing 21 Coptic Christians. In statements to Vatican Radio, Bishop Martinelli said, “We could go, it’s true. Probably at some point (the jihadists) will take us and say: ‘You are against Islam’…and that will be the end. We are in an ambiguous situation. This is because of a lack of dialogue: there has been a lack of dialogue for so long that now we need to recover time.” While acknowledging that Christians in the area are scared, he emphasized that they are there to bear witness “to that which Jesus asks us to do.” Asked about whether he himself is afraid, Bishop Martinelli said, “I don’t think so. If it weren’t for the faith, we would not be here.” Not only are Christians suffering, he added, but also “the Libyans themselves who love us, and want what’s good for us, who are doing everything to bring back more normal relationship.” For this reason, he exhorted the international community to be willing to “launch a dialogue with this country that is divided” and to “strive to be instruments of unity” rather than only seeking after one’s own interests.
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