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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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christian, persecution, charity, church, persecuted, sookhdeo, Islam

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    • Give thanks to the Lord that Barnabas Aid is able to help oppressed and persecuted Christian communities by providing grants to Christian students in higher education. Pray for those who have received this help in the past, that they will give a voice to their brothers and sisters and will help to resource, empower and protect them in the face of hostility. Ask that God’s sustaining grace will uphold those who are currently studying, often under severe pressure from the majority community, and pray that they may be equipped for spiritual leadership. Praise God for their dedication to His service, and ask Him to use them powerfully in their various vocations. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 9 hours ago

    • Almighty God, we pray that You will protect Your people in the Holy Land. We pray especially for the congregation of a church in Gaza City, whose church compound was attacked with a small explosive device on 26 February. We give You thanks that the church, school, nursery and pastor’s house were undamaged and that a fi re that was lit under the pastor’s car was extinguished when Christians came outside to investigate. We pray that the congregation may stand firm for You in the face of the threatening message that was written on the wall facing the church gate: “We’ll get you soon, O worshippers of the cross.” We ask that there will be no further attempt to attack this church or others in the area. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Thu, Jul 2014 00:00

    • Taliban militants attempted to attack a Christian-run day-care centre in Kabul, Afghanistan, on 28 March, saying it was “a church used to convert Muslims to Christianity”. The attackers mistakenly targeted the next-door building, which houses workers on an agricultural and de-mining project, instead; two Afghan civilians, one a young girl, died in the crossfi re. All five Taliban bombers were also killed in the raid on the heavily-secured compound. The day-care centre that they were attempting to target, which is used by expatriates, is said to hold Christian worship services on certain days. Ask the Lord to change the hearts of those who plan and carry out terrorist attacks against Christians and other targets in Afghanistan; pray that they will turn instead to Him. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Wed, Jul 2014 00:00

    • “He was always a light for Christ and he had a love and commitment that he expressed for the Afghan people because of that love for Christ.” The widow of Dr Jerry Umanos, an American doctor who was shot dead at the Christian-run hospital where he worked in Kabul, Afghanistan, spoke of her husband’s faith and ministry. Two visiting American Christians, father and son Gary and John Gabel, were also killed on 24 April when an Afghan security guard opened fire on the staff he was meant to be protecting. Pray for comfort for the grieving families of the three men, and ask the Lord to safeguard the future of the hospital, which provides much-needed medical care and also trains Afghan doctors and nurses. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Jul 2014 00:00

    • “We ask all Christians and members of other faiths to reconsider their own beliefs and join Hinduism.” Krishna Hari Baskota, secretary at the Office of the Prime Minister in Nepal, was speaking about the application process for a new identity card that will show citizens’ religious affiliation. Christians and members of other minorities will be subjected to greater scrutiny before obtaining the official documents and will be asked to reiterate their faith. One Christian rights activist said that the government is trying to discourage people from converting from Hinduism. Pray that the Nepalese authorities will not discriminate against Christians but will treat them on equal terms with the Hindu majority. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Jul 2014 00:00

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