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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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    • Give thanks that as believers in some areas of Egypt continue to be at risk of violence from Islamists, Barnabas Aid is able to provide various kinds of practical help for needy Christians there, especially those most affected by the political turmoil. We are supporting Christian families in Upper Egypt with housing costs, medicines, food and schooling for their children, and 30 Christian students who were on the verge of dropping out of education because of lack of money have received funding to complete their education. Pray for all those receiving this help, that they will also be encouraged spiritually. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 23 hours ago

    • Give thanks that the authorities in Egypt are pursuing justice for the Christian community following widespread violence against them by supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood last summer. Christians were scapegoated by the Islamists for the downfall of President Mohammed Morsi. On 14 August, mobs torched scores of churches, Christian institutions and private property in what was described as the worst single day of violence against the Egyptian Church since the 14th century. Over 100 Muslims have been charged in connection with the attacks; at the time of writing they were due to stand trial for rioting, attacking citizens and targeting the churches and homes of Christians. Pray that justice will be done and restitution made to churches and individuals who suffered material losses. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Jul 2014 00:00

    • “I was so happy and treasure this Word of God. It brings me so much peace and hope.” Uu Dee KoMang, an elderly woman in Burma (Myanmar), was one of many Christians who recently received a Kachin Bible through Barnabas Aid. Two years ago the Burmese army entered her village and ordered everyone to leave within the hour. Uu Dee took some clothes and food and ran, but her Bible was too heavy to carry. Now living in a relocation camp, she regretted not taking it, until the Bibles from Barnabas arrived. Pray that God’s Word will comfort and strengthen these believers who have lost so much and will give them encouragement for the future. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Jul 2014 00:00

    • Pray for three Christian prisoners of conscience in Vietnam who are being denied access to Bibles and other sources of spiritual support. Prison guards in Hanoi and Thanh Hoa province have refused to allow Le Quoc Quan, a lawyer and activist, and bloggers Maria To Phong Tan and Paul Tran Minh Nhat to receive visits from their church leaders and have prevented them from receiving Communion. Maria is serving a ten-year prison sentence in a harsh labour camp; she has been beaten by other inmates. Pray that the Lord will sustain and build up the faith of our brothers and sister as they cry out to Him in their need (Psalm 142:6). Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sun, Jul 2014 00:00

    • Five ethnic Hmong Christian families in Vietnam have been attacked by their neighbours in attempts to get them to renounce their faith. On 26 February, Hang A Khua and his family were ordered to recant by public security officers, backed by around 30 villagers from Trun Phu in Dien Bien province; when they refused, the officers ordered the villagers to attack them. The mob ransacked and demolished the family’s house; their rice fields were confiscated, and they were expelled from the district. In Son La province, four more Christian families were similarly threatened in March. One couple were attacked in their home; they were kicked and punched, and the wife was dragged out of the house by her hair. Give thanks for these families’ courageous stand for Christ and pray that they will find strength in Him. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sat, Jul 2014 00:00

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