Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya
July 28

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Area 1,775,500 Mostly Saharan desert; only a coastal Mediterranean strip of 2% of its land area is arable.

Population Ann.Gr. Density
2000 5,604,722 +2.45% 3 per sq. km.
2010 6,981,828 +2.09% 4 per sq. km.
2025 8,646,769 +1.31% 5 per sq. km.

Capital Tripoli 1,300,000. Urbanites 86%.


Population is a confused issue as foreign workers compose anywhere from 3 to 35% of Libya's total. All figures are estimates.

Indigenous 75%.

Arab 63.1%. Including 750,000 Bedouin in 5 groups.

Berber 9.4%. About half are Arabized. 8 groups, largest: Nefusi 173,000; Jalo 36,700; Zuara; 33,600; Jofra 23,000; Ghadames 10,000.

Other 2.5%. Black African 100,000; Teda 20,000; Zaghawa 8,600. Mainly in southern oases.

Expatriate 25%. Many labourers from surrounding lands. Predominantly Egyptian, Sudanese, North African and Chadean. Also Korean, European, Filipino, Pakistani and Bangladeshi.

Literacy 76%. Official language Arabic. All languages 11. Languages with Scriptures 2NT 1por.


Transformed by discovery of oil in 1959. Oil wealth has financed revolutionary movements and the promotion of Islam in many nations, while accounting for almost all exports. Qaddafi's fickle and dictatorial government has made development patchy. US-led sanctions have hampered the economy. Widespread subsidies and free handouts limit political opposition, but unemployment among the younger generation is surprisingly high. Almost 75% of food is imported. Goods are expensive and not affordable to the majority of the population. HDI 0.756; 65th/174. Public debt 7.9% of GDP. Income/person $6,510 (18% of USA).


Ruled by Italy 1911-1943. Full independence in 1951 as a monarchy. The military coup of 1969 led to a revolutionary republic under the leadership of Muammar Qaddafi. While three groups of secret police spy on the population and each other, reports of civil strife and insurrection occasionally leak out. Executions of alleged spies in the late 1990s reveal government insecurity. Years of UN-imposed sanctions, due to Libya's involvement in terrorism, ended in 2000. Qaddafi has seemingly abandoned Arab nationalism for a pan-African polemic.


Sunni Islam is the state religion, but secularizing influences are strong. The government sees Islamist ideology, and related support trickling in to the country, as a threat. No form of Christian witness to Libyan citizens is allowed, and congregations of expatriates are strictly monitored. There is a state-imposed limit of one church per denomination per city. All figures below are approximations. Persecution index 12th in the world.

Religions Population % Adherents Ann.Gr.
Muslim 96.50 5,408,557 +2.4%
Christian 3.00 168,142 +3.9%
Buddhist 0.30 16,814 +2.4%
non-Religious/other 0.20 11,209 -5.5%

Christians Denom. Affil.% ,000 Ann.Gr.
Protestant 5 0.12 7 +1.8%
Independent 3 0.01 0 +8.5%
Catholic 1 0.71 40 +0.0%
Orthodox 4 1.58 89 +5.2%
Unaffiliated   0.58 33 n.a.

Churches MegaBloc Cong. Members Affiliates
Coptic Orthodox O 14 34,000 85,000
Catholic C 2 27,972 40,000
Coptic Evangelical P 6 2,200 4,400
Greek Orthodox O 3 511 1,700
Other denoms [11]   99 3,100 4,600
Total Christians [15]   124 67,800 136,000

Trans-bloc Groupings pop. % ,000 Ann.Gr.
Evangelical 0.3 18 +4.6%
Pentecostal & Charismatic 0.2 13 +4.0%

Challenges for Prayer

1 No open evangelism is possible. The last missionary outpost was closed in 1960. The entire indigenous population is unreached. Despite the increasing freedom for expatriates granted by the state, Libyans are off limits for evangelism. Approaches to them are potentially dangerous to both parties. A number of expatriate workers are seeking to reach Libyans, but are hindered by the elaborate secret police networks. There is a shared sense of despair and hopelessness. Pray for the calling of more Arab Christians and tentmakers to specifically reach Libyans in a sensitive and effective manner. Pray for this tightly-shut land to open to the gospel.

2 Personal freedom is restricted. Political and economic sanctions of the past, as well as policies pursued by the government, continue to have long-term effects. Intercede for greater freedom for the people of Libya, and for greater openness in Libya to Christian workers from other lands. Pray that Christians might see past the Western media's caricature of Libyans as fanatical Islamists and recognise the Libyans' need for the Saviour. Pray for many to be called to serve in Libya.

3 The Christian community is large, but foreign. There are no more than a handful of Libyan believers, all facing many obstacles to fellowship, including fear of infiltrators. Christians among the expatriate population are largely nominal; few find opportunity for public worship, and most congregations lack pastoral care. There are some active Protestant, Catholic and Coptic Orthodox congregations, and several informal groups of believers of various nationalities from Asia, Africa, and Europe. Pray for the unhindered growth of a Christian witness among expatriates and for outreach to every national grouping among them. There was a crackdown on home meetings in 2000.

4 Alternative means for reaching Libyans with the gospel:

a) Broadcasting. Radio and satellite television provide two of the very few ways to evangelize Libyans. Three different radio stations broadcast programmes to Libya: IBRA – over Radio Moscow, FEBA-Seychelles, TWR-Monaco. With the proliferation of satellite dishes (perhaps 50% of households) SAT-7 and other Christian satellite television broadcasts are of increasing importance. But face to face follow-up is virtually impossible, despite signs of responsiveness. Pray for creative programmes with impact, the means to disciple seekers and protection for those who respond.

b) Literature and audio and video cassettes. These may enter only by creative channels. Few Libyans have ever seen a Bible. There are no Scriptures in Libyan Arabic. Pray that work on this may start so that Libyans can read the gospel in their heart language. Pray for the circulation of Christian tapes in spite of the barriers. Pray that the recent distribution of the JESUS film might yield eternal fruit. Pray for the conversion of censors and that materials may find their way safely through customs and the postal system.

c) Libyans overseas. Political refugees, diplomats, students and businessmen could be introduced to Christ by believers in other lands – pray for homes and hearts to be opened for such ministry. There are growing numbers of seekers, but even while abroad, Libyans are watched closely by security forces.

d) Internet access is strictly limited in Libya, but becoming inevitably more available. Pray that Libyans may be drawn to Christian websites and attracted to the gospel.

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