Tonight we are going to look to together at the country of Tunisia. A country known for its popular holiday destinations but more recently for its part in the Arab Spring – the wave of revolutions by the Arab people in demonstrations and protest early last year. It was actually one of the first to rise in a time of wide unemployment and a struggling economy caused real disillusionment with the ruling powers. Soon the long-serving president Ben Ali was ousted from office as the people united to get rid of this authoritarian leader – that would spark the same attitude elsewhere in Egypt, Libya and Yemen.
One of the main places this happened was in the capital (Tunis). Home to a huge mosque that they say is on par with Mecca itself. According to popular belief, seven trips to the was worth one hajj to Mecca. (pilgrimage), which some muslims use when mecca is too far. And this mosque gives us a flavour what the country is like. In a population of 10.6 million only around 23,000 are known to be Christians. The main religion is firmly Islam.
After the revolution and the subsequent elections for democracy in October, the ruling party Ennahda won the majority vote and are starting to shape the new constitution. Many were hopeful for real freedom for the county’s people, including vulnerable Christian minority but being the main Islamist party this is looking unlikely. Recently some Christians have had to flee the country after receiving death threats for openly sharing their faith during the revolution. In September a group of Muslims tried to turn a church building into a mosque in the city of Kef.
Many of the Christians are scattered or secret believers as they face the usual discrimination and harassment endured by converts from Islam. If the country becomes more Islamic their freedom and safety are likely to be jeopardised even further. There are those who are keen for this to happen, on 17th February 2012 hundreds of Salafists (strict islamic thinking) rallied to call for Sharia Law to be implemented to the cries of Allahu Akbar. There has also been talk of women being physically and verbally abused by Salafist activists for not dressing modestly.
It appears that Western hopes that the revolution would lead to the establishment of a secular democracy in Tunisia are looking increasingly wishful.
Things for Prayer
Pray for the indigenous Christians of Tunisia at this time of massive political change.
Pray that their limited freedom to practise their faith will not be threatened further, and that they may be protected from attacks by radical Muslims.
Ask the Lord to overrule in the shaping of Tunisia’s new government, that the influence of Islamist groups will be restricted and the country will not impose sharia law.
Pray too for the country’s expatriate Christian community, that they may find ways to support their Tunisian brothers and sisters.