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TUNISIAN PRESIDENT RELIEVES PRIME MINISTER, SUSPENDS PARLIAMENT

Tunisia

On Sunday 25 July, Tunisian President Kais Saied relieved Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi from his duties and dissolved parliament following protests and growing unrest. Defence Minister Ibrahim Bartagi and acting Justice Minister Hasna Ben Slimane were also removed from their posts. Mr Saied insisted his actions were in line with article 80 of the Tunisian constitution, which grants the president power to use “extraordinary measures if there is imminent danger threatening the nation.” However, those in opposition to his actions, namely Parliament Speaker and opposition party leader Rached Ghannouchi, accused Mr Saied of “a coup against the revolution and constitution.” Parliament will be suspended for 30 days, with the possibility of an extension if calm is not restored. Mr Saied appointed lower-level officials to perform cabinet duties until a new prime minister is appointed. In the days before the decision to dissolve parliament, Tunisians protested in the streets against deteriorating economic conditions and the rise of COVID-19 cases, calling for the disbanding of the government. The pandemic has significantly affected Tunisia’s employment rate and several state services have been suspended. Tunisia is often described as one of the more successful reconstructions following the 2011 Arab Spring, but the current protests are the largest the country has seen since the introduction of democracy.

FROM A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE

POPULATION: ± 11.9 MILLION CHRISTIAN: 0.4%
EVANGELICAL: 0.03%
UNREACHED GROUPS: 12 (99.2% of pop.)

Many Christians in Tunisia are foreigners or do not hold Tunisian citizenship. Despite being ranked 26th on the Open Doors World Watch List for persecution, Tunisia has an estimated evangelical growth rate of 4.7%, higher than the average global rate of 2.6% (Joshua Project). The US State Department’s 2020 Report on International Religious Freedom (RIRF) mentions that while Muslim-background believers in Tunisia face threats and persecution from family, friends, and wider society, there have been reports of increasing numbers of Muslims converting to Christianity. An article cited within the RIRF mentions that the societal perception of religious minorities as ‘foreigners’ or ‘not fully Tunisian’ has played a role in the conversion of people from Islam to Christianity. However, the RIRF also mentions that the number of reported Muslim-background converts could be much lower than the actual number due to the need for believers to operate in secret to avoid ostracization. While it may be more difficult for the Church to operate openly in Tunisia, Christian sources within the RIRF testify to the local church’s involvement in helping people to pay their rent, buy food, and other basic supplies during the pandemic. Praise the Lord for the courage of believers to step up and help local communities in a time of economic and spiritual need. Let us continue to pray that the gospel will take root among native Tunisians in these deeply uncertain and difficult times.

Please pray with us for the following:

  • For peace in Tunisia and a quick resumption of democratic governmental processes
  • For the gospel to spread among local Tunisians
  • For the continued efforts of the Tunisian Church to provide physical and spiritual relief to hurting communities

 

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Image: REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi

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