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2021 WORLD WATCH LIST #26

TUNISIA

Country rank

26

Persecution score

67.49

Last year’s rank

34

Region

Middle East  North Africa

Persecution Type

Islamic oppression (Strong), Clan oppression (Medium)

Persecution Level

Very High

Population

11,903,000

Christians

23,100 (0.2%) Data source: Johnson T M and Zurlo G A, eds., World Christian Database (Leiden/Boston: Brill, accessed February 2020).

Main Religion

Islam

Government

Parliamentary Republic

Leader

Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi

In cooperation with local churches and partners, Open Doors supports the persecuted church in Tunisia through:

• Training
• Bible and Christian literature distribution
• Socio-economic development
• Advocacy

ABOUT TUNISIA

 What does persecution look like in Tunisia?

The average pressure on Christians is at a very high level. Although every aspect of life for a believer involves very high levels of pressure, persecution is highest in family and church life. This is particularly apparent for those Christians who have converted from Islam, because often their new faith is opposed—sometimes violently—by both family and community. Additionally, it is difficult, if not impossible, for converts from Islam to live out their faith openly if they want to avoid significant pressure and opposition.

Most of these converts choose to hide their faith and cannot openly worship and live their lives as Christians. The hostility and pressure they face from the surrounding community and society make it dangerous to share their faith with their family members, relatives, neighbors, friends or colleagues. They also find it difficult to gather for worship and fellowship due to the risk of exposure, especially if they are monitored by Tunisian security services.

Other sources echo this current reality. Priscilla Hwang, a writer and journalist with the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation), recently conducted an in-depth investigation into the situation of Tunisian Christians. She says: “Tunisian Christians face discrimination and targeting that is often obscure and hidden to the public eye. It affects their day-to-day lives. Because of their Christian identities, many experience job insecurity, abandonment from family, friends and even fiancés; they are victims of verbal, mental and physical abuse.” 

How women experience persecution

Christian women and girls in Tunisia are particularly subject to sexual harassment, domestic violence, expulsion from family and forced marriage as forms of religious persecution. 

The main source of persecution for women in Tunisia comes from the primary male in the family: For a single female, he’s the father, the brother or any other family member who follows in rank. For a married woman, he’s her husband or fiancé. Conversion from Islam is forbidden, and a female convert risks being ostracized by her family and community, and suffering physical violence or honor killings if her new faith is discovered. 

Further, Christian women who convert from Islam can be imprisoned in their own homes and raped, even by family members. Married female converts can be divorced and have their children taken from them.  

How men experience persecution

Christian men who convert face intimidation, beatings and death threats. They bring shame upon their families by leaving Islam and are therefore likely to be ostracized. 

Pressured by their families, Muslim wives will often leave a Christian convert, and he may be denied inheritance or even access to his possessions. Male converts also face job loss and the denial of access to social circles. Plus, when a Christian man is persecuted in Tunisia, his family becomes vulnerable and lacks protection. 

What has changed this year?

Tunisia rose in the rankings this year due to a reported increase in violence against Christians and property owned by Christians. A greater number of Christian buildings, houses and shops owned by Christians were attacked. Additionally, there was an increase in pressure in church life. The situation for Tunisian Christians continues to vary by area, and in some regions anti-Christian sentiment against Christians and churches is significant. Also, pressure on Christians—particularly Christian converts—continues to be strong across all aspects of life.  

Who is most vulnerable to persecution?

Christians who have converted from Islam have the most to fear—often from their own family members and surrounding society. This is especially true in the country’s conservative southern regions. Urban areas, especially the capital city Tunis, offer more options for converts to escape this familial and cultural pressure, and live their faith more openly in the anonymity of the big city.

Violent Islamic extremists are also active in the border areas to the south. They will target any Christian, whether foreign of national, if the opportunity arises. 

How can I help Christians in Tunisia?

What does Open Doors do to help Christians in Tunisia?

In cooperation with local partners and churches, Open Doors supports the church in Tunisia in a variety of ways. Through indigenous partners, Open Doors provides training, Christian literature distribution, socio-economic development and advocacy training to stand up for the rights of Tunisian Christians. Open Doors also raises prayer support for believers in Tunisia. 

Your gift today will show our persecuted brothers and sisters in North Korea, and other countries in the World Watch List they are loved and remembered by you.

Pray

-There are many lonely believers in Tunisia. Pray for them to find other believers around them to connect with, and pray for strong and fruitful fellowships. 

-Please pray that the light, peace and love of Christ would overcome a spirit of intimidation and fear that some Tunisian believers are feeling. Pray that Tunisian Christians continue to pray in the Spirit to keep their minds free from fear, intimidation and confusion.  

-Pray for female believers in Tunisia struggling with trauma. Pray for God to bless them. Pray they will find security and help in Christ.

-Pray for the president in Tunisia, who has only been in power for a year. Pray his time in office will bring new freedoms for Christians. 

 

A PRAYER FOR TUNISIA

O God, we pray for Your people in Tunisia. We ask that You will be with them and strengthen them in all circumstances. We pray especially for Your servants who found the life-saving grace of Jesus despite coming from another faith. We ask that You would protect them, sustain their faith and give them hope and courage. We ask all these things in the name of Jesus, Amen.