Libya

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Libya, Arabic: ‏ليبيا‎ Lībiyā, is a country in the Maghreb region of northern Africa, bordered on the north by the Mediterranean Sea, on the west by Tunisia and Algeria, the east by Egypt and Sudan, and the south by Chad and Niger. Areas within present day Libya, Cyrenaica, also known as the Pentapolis, and Tripolitania, have had associations with Christianity since the days of Jesus.

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History

Cyrenaica was colonized by Greeks as early as the seventh century before Christ. A civilization built up around a group of five cities in the western part of the province associated with the oldest city, Cyrene. Cyrene became an intellectual and artistic center in the early Hellenic world. In the sixth century before Christ, the Pentapolis was conquered by the Persians, followed by Alexander the Great two centuries later.

In the century before the Nativity of Christ the Romans came to control the area which soon became associated with the activities of Jesus and his apostles. The Synoptic Gospels relate the presence of Simon of Cyrene at the crucifixion of Christ as he carried the Savior's cross. According to tradition, Mark the Evangelist was born in the Pentapolis. During the centuries after the resurrection of Christ, his followers in the Pentapolis grew with historical roots with the Church in Egypt. Bishops from Libya were present at many of the early councils including those at Nicea and Ephesus. This church fell into schism over the decrees of the Fourth Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon in 451.

The Christian society of North Africa fell victim to the attacks of invaders, first of the Vandals of the fifth century, followed by that of the Muslim Arabs in the late seventh century. Over the following centuries the presence of Christianity was reduced to that of a small minority within an Islamic culture, with the majority of Christians following the non-Chalcedonian Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt.

Today

Today, the majority of Orthodox Christians in Libya are under the jurisdiction of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. The Chalcedonian Orthodox Christians in Libya are under the jurisdiction of the Church of Alexandria and include communities of Russian, Greek, and Serbian Orthodox believers.

While relations between Christians and Muslims in Libya are relatively peaceful, there are restrictions on Christian religious activity including restrictions on religious literature. Proselytizing Muslims is prohibited such that a non-Muslim man must convert to Islam if he marries a Muslim woman.

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