Tunisia (MNN) – Tunisia is known as “the motherland of the Arab Spring.”
Sadly, while the revolution may have begun in January 2011 with great hope, change has been so slow that Tunisians are fed up.
The Islamist-led Ennahda clearly won the first free elections in the fall of 2011, but the hope of stability didn’t follow. Right after elections, the ruling parties promised a new draft constitution within a year. It’s been two.
Meanwhile, this summer’s assassination of a key opposition leader served as the catalyst for new protests after months of frustration. To underscore the lack of confidence in the constitutional assembly, 50 deputies resigned in the wake of the murder.
Massive protests ensued throughout Tunisia. Leaders were obviously watching the unrest in fellow Arab Spring countries, Egypt and Libya. They did the unexpected, says Todd Nettleton, a spokesman for the Voice of the Martyrs USA. “We don’t think of Islamist parties relinquishing power once they have it. They clearly have been watching what happened in Egypt. They clearly don’t want that to happen there.”
Within three weeks, Tunisia is supposed to have a new transitional government. Within a month, there should be new elections. The constitutional convention is supposed to be working again soon. However, Nettleton notes that it’s possible a new election won’t bring about big change. “I think it shows that they feel pretty confident that they can win an election if they’re voluntarily stepping down and pointing towards a full-scale election in Tunisia.”
Some of the tension is coming from the desire to remain a largely secular country, being
governed by an Islamist party in a place where Islam is the state religion. For minority groups like Christians, there is a lot riding on the vote, Nettleton adds. “One of the things that we’ll be watching through this political process is if there is a change in posture on religious freedom because an Islamist government would say that a person who leaves Islam to follow Christianity is an apostate and they should to be put on trial and potentially even executed.”
Although repercussions for Muslim Background Believers have, at times, been severe, “There IS a church in Tunisia. There are Muslim converts there, but it is dangerous thing to be. They are targeted. Oftentimes, the first line of persecution is family members.”
The state of flux keeps believers on edge. They too, are watching what has happened to the body of Christ in Egypt, Syria and Libya. Nettleton says, “We need to pray for encouragement. We need to pray that they’ll continue to be bold witnesses for Christ in spite of the risk, in spite of the danger that they face, and I think that we can pray for their protection.”
Pray for opportunities to reach out to the people of Tunisia with the gospel. Pray too, that the Spirit of God will break down the barriers that have been built up against the gospel in Tunisia.