The Arab Spring began in Tunisia (December 2010). The country had one of the most progressive and open societies in the Arab world, but Tunisians felt frustrated by high unemployment, corruption, political oppression, and poor living conditions. Protests led to government changes, and inspired similar protests across the whole Arab world. However, continued economic decline and unemployment, intensified from the impact of COVID, along with frustration over government corruption and ineffectiveness, led to more protests in 2021. In response, the President dissolved the government, appointed a new Prime Minister, and rewrote the constitution in ways that will give him more power. Pray that the travails of Tunisia might somehow draw people towards Christ.
In earlier centuries the Christian Church was widespread, producing such leaders as Tertullian and Cyprian. Schism, heresy, failures to put roots deep into the local culture and to translate the Bible into local languages, foreign invasions and finally Islam brought about its demise. There are about 500 committed indigenous believers today, but only one-third of those meet together regularly for worship. Pray that a living, growing Church might become a reality again in this land.
Islam is experiencing a new vitality in Tunisia, which has not been particularly renowned for its religious commitment. In the years since 9/11 and subsequent events in the political-religious sphere, many Tunisians have become more fervent in their Islamic faith. This is reflected in their choice of clothing as well as mosque attendance. Although the government strives against politicized Islam, the general trend in the Arab world at large and locally, and the lack of future prospects for the younger generation, are pulling society toward greater Islamization.
Change is evident after a century of missionary involvement that produced little fruit. Pray that continued intercession might break through the centuries-old barriers to the gospel. There are more open doors and opportunities to share than ever before. Pray for Christians, foreign and national, to take advantage of these opportunities. The necessity of learning Arabic is a barrier to many non-Tunisian Christians.
Specific unreached areas and peoples:
- Young people are disillusioned with the existing situation, and many are negative about their own land; many are completely apathetic about spiritual things. There is currently a demographic bubble of youth with a limited window of opportunity (10 years or so) to reach them while they are still open to new ideas.
- Women have more freedom here than in some other Muslim countries, as reflected by their participation in politics and the work force and excelling in academic and economic sectors. But the issues of divorce and domestic violence remain. Women are still hard to reach with the gospel due to persisting cultural and traditional restrictions.
- The southern part of the country is a spiritual desert. Sfax, Gabes and Gafsa are needy cities. There are a few witnesses in this region, but many more are needed.
- The Berber communities maintain some of their distinctives even though they have largely lost their languages and are now considered a very small group. Their ancestors were Christian. The island of Djerba with 65,000 people, mostly Berber, is a specific challenge with its unique culture and very few known Christians. There are also two Jewish settlements.
- Kairouan is seen by some as the fourth-most holy city in Islam - many go there for blessings, healing and help. Pray that in their heartfelt search they might find Jesus.
Satellite TV and radio broadcasts are highly effective in reaching Tunisians. There are many programmes in Arabic, and they can reach to the most isolated and private corners of the country.
More than 6.5 million tourists visit Tunisia each year, including those from other Arab states. Music festivals often feature gospel choirs from abroad. Pray for a ministry to Muslim tourists and also for sensitive sharing opportunities for Christians who come as tourists.
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Content taken or adapted from Operation World, 7th Edition (2010) and Pray for the World (2015). Both books are published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.