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Tunisia’s upheaval unlikely to improve lot for believers

By January 18, 2011

Tunisia (MNN) — Protests erupted in Tunisia's streets Monday
as the prime minister announced a national unity government.

Although the new unity
government negotiated with the opposition parties and would appoint ministers of the interior, state, finance and
defense from the old ruling party, people
still protested the new coalition government.

It took one month for
Tunisia–long considered stable–to disintegrate. It started on December 17 when an unemployed
graduate set himself on fire. Soon,
thousands were in the streets demanding more job opportunities and a higher
standard of living.

Police clashed with the
protesters for the next nine days, which fueled their outrage at the oppressive
regime. On December
28, President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali warns protests are unacceptable and those
using violence will be punished.

By January 13, the
president promises major reforms and promises not to run for office in 2014. A day later, he declares a state of emergency, dissolves parliament, and promises to
hold legislative elections within six months.

The violence continues
and finally, Ben Ali renounces power, flees to Saudi Arabia, and the Speaker of
Parliament is sworn in as interim president and forms a coalition government.

Todd Nettleton with Voice of the Martyrs says it's hard to say
what will result from the hurried changes, however, "I don't think we can
anticipate a positive change, at least in the short term. This is a country
with less than half a percent of the population as Christian. It's pretty
unlikely that suddenly those believers are going to be celebrated by their government
or by their countrymen."

While it seems that the community of
believers is a little larger than thought previously, the attitude of the
authorities has changed. Foreign Christian residents experience more
inspections and suspect their phones are tapped.

"They have said, ‘We're not going have a law that is
in opposition to Islam.' It's unlikely that the new government, whenever that
gets situated, is going to change that policy. So I think that we need to pray
for the believers."

According to Open Doors' World Watch List–a compilation of the top
50 countries where persecution occurs, pastors of expat churches are watched
and the materials they use are monitored closely.* Nettleton says, "Voice
of the Martyrs is involved, but I can't say much more than that. Because there
are so few Christians in Tunisia, anything we say publicly about what we're
doing there can end up in them being targeted."

However, Nettleton hopes this situation could lead to open doors for the Gospel. "When there is upheaval, people
are thinking about eternity; they're thinking about important things: What's
worth living for? What's worth dying for?' That can be a time when revival strikes. It can be a time when the
Spirit of God moves within a country."

We have a link for details on how VOM helps
the persecuted church here.

*Tunisia ranks 37th (up 5 points) on the
World Watch List 2011.

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