Libya's Civil War Shrinks Christian Communities

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The Christian community in Libya is getting smaller as many believers continue flee the violence.

Giovanni Martinelli, the Roman Catholic bishop of Tripoli, said only about 5,000 of his 100,000 strong flock remain in the city.

The city's Greek Orthodox Church usually has about 1,000 people who attend services. Attendance is down to about a dozen people.

Rev. Edward Blasu, of the Union Church, another denomination, said he has canceled all evening activities in an attempt to keep his congregants - mostly African workers - safe.

In a statement issued just before the start of Holy Week, which began with Palm Sunday, the Tripoli churches called for an immediate cease-fire and said dialogue is the only way to end the two-month-old crisis.

Attempts to dislodge Gadhafi by force will only make him more determined to hang on, said Martinelli, an Italian who came to Libya just a year after Gadhafi seized power in 1969.

"He is a Bedouin, he is very strong," the bishop said, tapping his forehead to illustrate hard-headedness.

Libya is predominantly a Muslim nation. Most Christians who live in the country are foreign workers from Africa, the Philippines, and Europe.

Many of the workers have returned to their native countries to escape the violence.

Meanwhile, the ongoing violence has forced many Libyans to flee the nation's Misrata, the nation's third largest city.

Rebel forces recently overtook Misrata, but now both opposition fighters and civilians are lining up to evacuate.

"The latest report that I have today, is that there are about 4,00 people who are waiting to be evacuated,” U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos said.

“But you will also appreciate that this number rises if we are not able to get people out because more and more people are presenting to the port," she explained.

Evacuees are being shipped out of Misrata to the city of Benghazi. 

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