High Hopes in Tunisia
Posted by Philip and Rosemary Halliday at 15:29 on 25th January 2012
We are just back from our first visit to Tunisia. It is a little over a year since mass street demonstrations prompted Mr Ben Ali to step aside, inspiring uprisings across the region that became known as the Arab Spring. The first election to follow also took place in Tunisia, in October, when more than 90% of those registered turned out to vote. Hopes are high that something new is emerging - an indigenously rooted, Arab democracy.
In terms of Christian faith, Tunisia is the fourth biggest unreached people group in the world (according to the Lausanne classification). Muslims outnumber Christians by about 22,000 to 1, with only an estimated 500 believers in Tunisia today. However, the gospel is progressing faster than in the previous millennium, with media giving many people their first ever opportunity to be exposed to Christianity and to have access to the Bible and Tunisians beginning to follow Jesus as a result of dreams, miracles, or the testimonies of changed lives. So hopes are high for spiritual progress as well as political.
Yet, we reflect on the experience of Eastern European friends who grew up under Communism and then found themselves living in post-1989 freedom. Politically, it was almost inevitable that reality would fail to match up to the high expectations. Spiritually, an initial thirst and rapid Church development has now cooled somewhat, as people increasingly focus their attention on economic and political matters. Under Communism, preachers called on their congregations to have hope and to believe that God would bring about change; since 1989, believers are less clear about what they should hope for.
Let us pray that political leaders in Tunisia will act on their promises to uphold the freedom and rights of their people, especially women, and to give rights to minority religious groups. Let us pray for the tiny but growing Church and for those who are seeking; pray for the Church in follow-up, discipleship, leadership, dealing with and division and seeking to be light.
Thanks for reading the blog,
Philip & Rosemary.