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Christians flee as Islamist influence gr...

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Christians flee as Islamist influence grows in Tunisia

Country/Region: Tunisia, Middle East and North Africa

They’re taking advantage of the revolution. Aziz Khasseba, a Tunisian teacher who is campaigning against growing Islamist influence

Reports of Christians fleeing for safety, violent attacks against opponents and the forced veiling of women are coming from Tunisia, raising fears that Islamist extremists are hijacking the revolution.

Tunisia revolution protest
A demonstration in central Tunis during the Tunisian revolution CC BY 2.0 by cjb22

Christians who have sought to take advantage of the promise of greater freedom in post-Ben Ali Tunisia to share their faith have been forced to flee the country or move to safer locations after receiving threats from Islamists.

One outspoken opponent of Islamist extremism and advocate of secular democracy, Nouri Bouzid, the acclaimed Tunisian film director, who is not a Christian, was wounded in a stabbing in April. A week later, a speaker at a rally organised by Ennahda, Tunisia’s largest Islamist party, called for Bouzid to be “shot with a Kalashnikov”, a call that was met with cries of “Allahu Akbar” from the audience.

And there are signs of an increasing public imposition of Islam in the country, which has previously been strongly resistant to attempts by conservative Muslims to make Tunisian society more Islamic. Mokhtar Trifi, head of the country’s human rights league, said that manifestations of Islamic radicalism such as forced veiling, forced prayer and condemnations for apostasy are rising all over the country.

Ennahda, which committed terrorist attacks in the 1980s and 1990s, is reportedly targeting the mosques, forcing moderate imams from their posts. The group, which was banned under Ben Ali, claims to be moderate, saying that “Islam and modernity can live together in complete tranquillity”, but there have been mixed messages about its agenda. Ennahda voted for a rule that 50 per cent of candidates in the forthcoming election must be women, and claims that it does not want to impose the veil, sharia law or an alcohol ban. But opponents are not convinced. Maya Jribi, secretary general of the main liberal party, the PDP, said:

Our problem is the gap between what they say and what they do. There’s one message in the media and another in the mosques, where they are doing a big campaign. They say that Islam is a package, you have to take the whole package. For politicians to say that, that’s very dangerous.

Such reports come just weeks ahead of elections for a body to draw up the new Tunisian constitution. Ennahda looks set to become the largest single party with around 30 per cent of the vote, which would give it significant sway in shaping the country’s future. Tunisia, which is more than 99 per cent Muslim, is currently among the most secular of Muslim states, and many aspects of sharia law are not in force.

A dozen new parties have formed since the revolution, but Ennahda, which has existed – albeit under a different name – since 1981, is better organised to contest an election. There is growing concern that the birthplace of the “Arab Spring” will become the first country to see Islamists take significant political power.

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

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  • Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we give You thanks on this Easter Day for the living hope that You have given us and all Your people through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead (1 Peter 1:3). We pray that the prospect of an enduring inheritance and future salvation will encourage our persecuted brothers and sisters to persevere in their faith, whatever may happen to them. We pray that we too may be sustained by this hope in the sufferings that we experience for the sake of Christ. We ask that the joy and resurrection power of the Lord will give strength and peace to persecuted believers today and every day. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 7 hours ago

  • Give thanks for the Christ-like responses of Christian leaders in CAR to the crisis that threatens them and their churches. They have distanced themselves from the anti-balaka militias, saying that these should not be labelled as Christian and that they hold no mandate from the churches. The leaders have also condemned the violence in the country, whatever its origin, and have called on Christians to pursue forgiveness, reconciliation and healing. Churches are hiding, defending and caring for thousands of Muslims endangered by the anti-balaka, and one of CAR’s most senior church leaders has invited the president of the country’s Islamic community to move into his church compound. Pray that this powerful witness to the grace and love of Christ will help to bring peace to the shattered country. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sat, Apr 2014 00:00

  • On this Good Friday, give thanks to God for the death of Christ and for His gift of eternal life. Praise Him too for the example of those Christians who have persevered in their faith at the risk of their lives and who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of Christ and the Gospel. Pray that their martyrdom will inspire their suffering brothers and sisters in Christ to endure whatever hardships befall them and will convince their persecutors of the truth and power of the Gospel. Pray too that their bereaved families and churches will not grieve without hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Fri, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Cry out to the Lord for Christians in the Central African Republic (CAR) who have been driven from their homes by the violence that has engulfed their country. Attacks by Islamist Séléka militants and retaliation from “anti-balaka” militias has generated a huge humanitarian crisis in which around two million people, many of them Christians, are in need of emergency assistance. Give thanks for the work of Barnabas partners who have been providing food rations to hundreds of displaced believers in the capital, Bangui, and distributing food, medicines, clothing and seeds to thousands in various regions. Pray that the aid will reach those who need it most, and that the Lord will comfort the relatives and friends of the thousands who have been killed in the fighting. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Thu, Apr 2014 00:00

  • “Jesus Christ performed tremendous miracles in all our lives through this Shalom Camp.” A pastor spoke of how God had worked through a Barnabas-sponsored weekend Bible camp for persecuted Christians in Sri Lanka. The camp was attended by believers from five different churches that had been the target of threats or attacks by Buddhist or Hindu extremists. The participants heard teaching on the Biblical basis for persecution and took part in group discussions; they came away refreshed and encouraged, and for many the camp was a time of great spiritual renewal. Give thanks to the Lord for the peace He has brought to these persecuted believers, and ask that the weekend will continue to bear much fruit in their lives. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Wed, Apr 2014 00:00

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