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Tunisia

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Tunisia has some fine church buildings, but many converts from Islam have to worship in secret
Habib M’henni / CC BY-SA 3.0

On 26 January 2014, the Tunisian parliament adopted a new constitution that guarantees freedom of worship and enshrines the equality of men and women. The document was hailed as a success for democracy and the principles of consensus and compromise after months of contention between Islamist and secular forces. The text was agreed after the then governing Islamist Ennahda party granted a number of concessions, including the dropping of references to Islamic law. The new constitution describes Islam as the religion of the state but not its source of legislation.

The new constitution should give hope to the very small Christian community and other minorities in Tunisia. It is a marked change from the initial “Arab Spring” aftermath, when Tunisia, where the revolutionary movement began, moved in an increasingly Islamist direction. Ennahda, the main Islamist party, won both the presidential and the parliamentary elections, and the draft constitution initially identified sharia as “the principal source of legislation” and limited religious freedom and other key rights. Islamist leaders were putting out anti-Christian messages, and their supporters were harassing churches. A self-appointed religious police was also given legal status.

 But Tunisia is traditionally among the most secular and progressive of the Arab nations, and many legislators remained committed to this tradition. So the government found itself under pressure after the assassination of two opposition politicians sparked months of mass protests. The powerful trade union association, which has the power to bring the country to a standstill, forced Ennahda’s leaders to resign and hand over to a non-partisan, caretaker administration ahead of new elections. It is thought that the Tunisian opposition was emboldened by the toppling of the Islamist regime in Egypt in July 2013 after a mass uprising there.

Until the 7th century AD Christianity was widespread throughout the region of today’s Tunisia. It produced famous Christian thinkers and leaders such as Tertullian and Cyprian. But five centuries later, after Arab tribes had conquered the land and established themselves as rulers, Christianity was extinguished. Today there are only a few hundred indigenous believers, all of them converts from Islam or the children of converts, alongside a rather larger population of expatriate Christians, in a country that is more than 99% Muslim. In general churches are allowed to operate without harassment, but evangelism among Muslims is forbidden, and disapproval of apostasy from Islam is so strong in society at large that many converts are secret believers.  

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Daily prayer

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  • Cry out to the Lord for Christians in the Central African Republic (CAR) who have been driven from their homes by the violence that has engulfed their country. Attacks by Islamist Séléka militants and retaliation from “anti-balaka” militias has generated a huge humanitarian crisis in which around two million people, many of them Christians, are in need of emergency assistance. Give thanks for the work of Barnabas partners who have been providing food rations to hundreds of displaced believers in the capital, Bangui, and distributing food, medicines, clothing and seeds to thousands in various regions. Pray that the aid will reach those who need it most, and that the Lord will comfort the relatives and friends of the thousands who have been killed in the fighting. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 2 hours ago

  • “Jesus Christ performed tremendous miracles in all our lives through this Shalom Camp.” A pastor spoke of how God had worked through a Barnabas-sponsored weekend Bible camp for persecuted Christians in Sri Lanka. The camp was attended by believers from five different churches that had been the target of threats or attacks by Buddhist or Hindu extremists. The participants heard teaching on the Biblical basis for persecution and took part in group discussions; they came away refreshed and encouraged, and for many the camp was a time of great spiritual renewal. Give thanks to the Lord for the peace He has brought to these persecuted believers, and ask that the weekend will continue to bear much fruit in their lives. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Wed, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Pray for a church leader in Sri Lanka, S.S. Johnpillai, who was threatened at gunpoint by attackers who claimed to be Special Forces officers. The minister was in a hut next to his church building in Guadalupe, Trincomolee when, he said, the men “appeared out of nowhere”. The intruders put a gun to Johnpillai’s head and accused him of holding a Communion service in honour of the founder of the Tamil Tigers, the government’s opponents in the country’s long and bloody civil war. The government had that day made it a criminal offence to commemorate the group. The gunmen ignored Johnpillai’s protests that he had not dedicated Communion to the group’s founder, and they threatened to shoot him. Ask the Lord to support and strengthen Johnpillai as he recovers from this terrifying ordeal. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Lift up to the Lord persecuted Christians in Sri Lanka, where at least 65 anti-Christian incidents took place during 2013, including repeat attacks on several believers and their property in October 2013. However, a Sri Lankan government minister from a Buddhist nationalist party denied the accounts, saying that they might be “made up”. The minister claimed that Sri Lankans are “one family … trying to live together after a long civil war”. Pray that the Sri Lankan government will recognise the danger that our brothers and sisters face from militant Buddhists and that the authorities will provide effective protection for vulnerable Christians. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Condemned Christian mother Aasia Bibi’s final appeal hearing is scheduled to take place tomorrow (14 April) having been deferred twice. She was sentenced to death for blasphemy in November 2010 having been falsely accused of insulting Muhammad following an argument with Muslim co-workers. Aasia has been languishing in jail since the accusation was made in June 2009. Pray that her appeal will finally go ahead and that the judges will have the courage to acquit and release Aasia; there are concerns that they may give in to pressure from hardline Islamists who have been calling for her execution. Pray that Aasia, her husband and children will know the Lord’s peace as they await the verdict. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sun, Apr 2014 00:00

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