Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi
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.”
“My family still thinks that I am a Muslim. Only my mother knows that I am a Christian, and she accepts it. My father does not know anything about it. He is a nice man, but from time to time he shows his other face. You never know how he will react if I would say that I am a Christian.”
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.
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 out 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.
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.