Ten years after Arab Spring, religious freedom needs remain

By June 24, 2021

Middle East/North Africa (MNN) — As discontent rumbles across the Middle East and North Africa, some suggest the possibility of a second Arab Spring.

The first movement began in Tunisia in late 2010 and quickly spread. By March 2011, there were mass demonstrations in a dozen countries as people demanded change. See our full Arab Spring coverage here.

A decade later, protestors are rallying again in Tunisia and Oman.

Collage of Arab Spring protests (Credit ليبي via Wikimedia Commons)

“I think there will always be frustration, and occasionally that frustration will bubble up into protests. There is economic frustration, unemployment, education frustration; right now, there is COVID frustration,” The Voice of the Martyrs USA spokesman Todd Nettleton says.

“There will be ‘brushfires of unrest,’ and I don’t see that going away.”

Will these “brushfires” spark another wildfire of reform like they did ten years ago? “For me, that’s a bit hard to imagine,” Nettleton says.

Arab Spring uprisings led to helpful reform in some countries. “There have been some changes [and] discussion that wouldn’t have happened ten years ago. There are ‘points of light,’ if I can use that phrase,” Nettleton says.

“I think of a group of evangelical leaders from the United States invited to visit Saudi Arabia as [guests] of the Crown Prince. They (Saudi officials) have talked about the possibility of having a church, not for Arab Christians but for foreign Christians in Saudi Arabia,” he continues.

“Ten years ago… that wouldn’t have been a discussion point; Christians would not have been welcomed into the palace.”

The Arab Spring resulted in some positive religious freedom changes, but much work remains.

“There was a lot of hopefulness ten years ago at the time of the Arab Spring. I think some of that has floundered,” Nettleton says.

“The reality for a Muslim background believer is they are still going to pay a price today, just as they would have ten years ago.”

Help persecuted Christians in the MENA region through The Voice of the Martyrs USA. Most importantly, pray. “Let’s watch for the advancing of the Gospel, and let’s pray,” Nettleton says.

“Let’s pray for Gospel workers; pray for protection over them. Pray that the Holy Spirit is knocking on the hearts of Muslims, inviting them and drawing them to Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God.”



Header image depicts 2014 protestors in Tunisia. Tunisia is the birthplace of the 2011 Arab Spring. (Photo cred: Wassim Ben Rhouma/Flickr)