Tunisia’s Christians had been deeply concerned about the rise of the Islamist Ennahda party which took power in 2011 in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings, when the regime of the dictator Ben Ali was swept away. However, many Tunisians started to turn against Ennahda after they were accused of failing to rein in Islamist militants -two prominent opposition politicians were assassinated in 2013 and of mismanaging the economy. Eventually Ennahda agreed to stand down.
In January 2014, the Tunisian parliament adopted a new constitution that guarantees freedom of worship and enshrines the equality of men and women. It has been hailed as a success for democracy and the principles of consensus and compromise after months of contention between Islamist and secular forces. Tunisia has traditionally been among the most secular and progressive ofthe Arab nations, and many legislators remained committed to this tradition. The new constitution describes Islam as the religion of the state but not its source of legislation.
Around 99% of the Tunisian population is Muslim and most of the Christians in the country are expatriates. The few hundred indigenous Tunisian Christians are converts from Islam or the children of converts. In general churches are allowed to operate without harassment, but evangelism among Muslims is not allowed and many converts are secret believers because of the strong disapproval of apostasy.
The growing influence of Islamic State is a continuing source of instability and there are concerns that there will be more incidents such as the attack on tourists in Sousse in June 2015.
Lift up in prayer Tunisian Christians, many of whom live as secret believers because of the marginalisation and harassment they may encounter. Pray that they will be able to encourage one another in the faith. Pray that the rights and freedoms granted to the Christian community and other minorities in the new constitution will be honoured in practice. Pray also against the roots of instability that extremists can so easily exploit.