Tunisia, North Africa
Political Leader: President Zine El Abidine ben Ali
Religions: Islam 99.7%, Christianity 0.2%, Other 0.1%
Persecution Ranking: 46
Number of Terrorist Groups: 2
Acts of Terrorism: 16; Casualties: 31
Percent of Corruption: 54%
% of People in Poverty: 7.4%
Tunisia, officially the Tunisian Republic, is a country situated on the Mediterranean coast of North Africa, midway between the Atlantic Ocean and the Nile Valley. It is bordered by Algeria in the west and Libya in the southeast. It is the northernmost African country and the smallest of the nations situated along the Atlas mountain range. Around 40% of the country is composed of the Sahara desert, with much of the remainder consisting of particularly fertile soil and a 1,300-kilometer coastline.
Tunisian law enforcement organizations carefully monitored the activities of Tunisian extremists, both in Tunisia and abroad, which challenged the ability of terrorists to organize internally, according to Country Reports on Terrorism 2007.
In December 2006 and January 2007, government forces disrupted a terrorist cell that allegedly targeted domestic and foreign interests in Tunisia. Six of those involved are thought to have entered Tunisia from Algeria, where they received training and support. Tunisian security forces killed 12 members of the group, reportedly called Assad Ibn Fourat’s Army, and captured 15 others. In December 2007, 30 individuals associated with the cell were convicted by the Tunis Court of First Instance of various terrorism-related charges. Lawyers have appealed the sentences, which ranged from death to five years imprisonment.
The Tunisian government actively prevented the formation of terrorist groups inside Tunisia, including prohibiting the formation of religious-based political parties and groups that it believed would pose a terrorist threat. Hundreds of other suspected terrorists were reportedly detained, charged, and/or convicted under Tunisia’s 2003 Terrorism Law and other relevant legislation.
Tunisian extremists were also involved in terrorist activities abroad, including in Algeria, Italy, Iraq, and Lebanon. Domestically, the government worked to improve security procedures at borders and airports. In April 2007, 12 Tunisians were convicted of planning to travel to Algeria to join Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. A number of Tunisians suspected of involvement in terrorist incidents abroad were also repatriated and subsequently charged with or convicted of terrorist activities.
In November 2007, Tunisia hosted an international conference on terrorism organized by the Islamic International Educational, Cultural, and Scientific Organization. The concluding statement of the conference, which was attended by over 100 international officials and opened by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and Tunisian President Ben Ali, stressed the role of education and economic development in defeating terrorism. During the year, Tunisia also hosted several meetings of Ministry of Interior officials from Arab League members, including ministers and chiefs of counterterrorism units, to review regional counterterrorism efforts and cooperation.
There is a general threat from terrorism in Tunisia. Attacks have occurred in places frequented by foreign travelers. The Tunisian authorities announced that they had disrupted a terrorist group on January 3, 2007 in the area of Grombalia (south of Tunis). Twelve of the group were killed and 15 arrested. It is believed the group was planning attacks against Western interests, including embassies. A group of German tourists was caught up in a terrorist suicide car bomb attack outside a synagogue on the island of Djerba on April 11, 2002, which resulted in 19 deaths. Al Qaeda later claimed responsibility for the attack.
Tunisia is comprised of 99.7% Muslims and only 0.2% of the population are Christians. Although Islam is the state religion, the government wants the country to be more secular, so more people prefer to worship money rather than Allah or Jesus. In this sort of environment, where most religions are not tolerated, it is hard to share the Gospel.
Challenges for Christians:
Tunisia is ranked No. 46 among nations that are the worst persecutors of Christians based on Open Doors 2008 World Watch List. The Tunisian government recognizes all Christian religious organizations that were established before independence in 1956, but did not permit other Christian groups to establish new churches. Efforts to proselytize Muslims were viewed as disturbing the public order and thus illegal. Foreign missionaries operated in the country, but were not permitted to proselytize.
- Pray that the terrorist groups in Tunisia will be thrown into confusion, and will not be able to regroup, recruit, or have the capacity to be disruptive. Pray that the demonic forces that are using the terrorists, such as Al Qaeda, like puppets will be toppled, and that the people will be set free to worship the Lord. Pray that their leaders will experience conversion to Christianity. (1 Timothy 2:1–4)
- Pray for the Tunisian government to crack down on terrorist groups.
- Thank God that in 1999 Christians came together to pray for Tunisia. God answered their prayers as significant numbers of people became Christians. Pray that the intercession of Christians would continue to break down barriers.
- Tunisia appears to be a Muslim country, but all this is just an appearance; it doesn’t reflect actual belief or commitment. In reality people are pursuing dreams of earning more money and doing better for themselves. Pray that this spiritual emptiness would be replaced with a desire to find out more about the God who created them and loves them.
- Pray for continued growth and discipleship in Tunisia’s churches. There are about 200 committed Christians, a tiny proportion of the country, but it is really difficult for many Christians to keep going because they become isolated and fearful. Pray that God would bless them with faith and courage to continue to persevere; few Tunisian Believers have been Christians for more than 10 years.
- The city of Kairouan is the fourth most holy city in Islam―many Muslims travel here in search of spiritual help or healing. Pray for supernatural opportunities for people to find Jesus.
- Translating the Bible into Tunisian Arabic is in progress. This is essential for the Gospel to be clearly understood and shared. Pray that the people working on this would have plenty of God’s wisdom.
Sources: 24-7 Prayer, Operation World, Wikipedia, Country Reports on Terrorism 2007, International Religious Freedom Report 2007, Open Doors, British Embassy