14 Apr 2013 18:00
Benghazi’s Immaculate Conception Catholic Church is now the city’s last remaining church that once represented a predominantly 300,000 strong European and Asian expat community.
A year into the revolution the Bishop of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church noticed a sharp decline in the size of his congregation. Previously, his congregation was home to Benghazi’s Christian community evenly split between Italians, Maltese Libyans, Filipinos and Africans from Ghana and Nigeria.
Bishop Sylvester Magro, of Benghazi now states that merely 300 Christian and predominantly Filipino community remains in the city, this stark drop in numbers is represented during a once popular Friday service. The Bishop stated that he once served mass to a congregation of 2,000 people but now there are only around 6, largely consisting of Filipino migrant workers. The Filipino workers earned the respect of the Libyan Muslims as during the revolution most the of the workers served as nurses and that for a long period of time in the past 2 years they were not paid by their employers. However, instead of leaving the country as was the trait of most migrant workers, they stayed behind and tended to those injured during the uprising.
Additionally, the members and priests of the Greek Orthodox Church abandoned their holy site due to fear of attacks. The Immaculate Conception Church is now Benghazi only functioning church.
Relations with Muslims and Christians had been relatively peaceful, yet since the fall of Gaddafi and the rise of Islamic militias many Christians fled the country for fear of persecution. A large proportion of Italian Christians and Maltese Libyans, once totaling around 50,000 have returned to Italy and Malta.