How many Christians are there in Tunisia?
Only a tiny minority of Tunisia’s population of 12.2 million are Christian: just 22,200 people. Most of the rest of the country are Muslim.
How are Christians persecuted in Tunisia?
Christians comprise a tiny minority in Tunisia. Churches serving foreign Christians enjoy relative freedom – though public evangelism is not tolerated – but Tunisian Christians are not officially recognised. Tunisians who convert from Islam to Christianity face a level of hostility that forces many to keep their faith secret. This is especially true in the south of the country, where the Muslim population is more conservative and violent Islamic militants are more active. The past year has seen a small increase in the number of church attacks.
Gathering with other Christians brings risk of exposure due to monitoring by the Tunisian security services. If a believer's faith is discovered, it can have a hugely damaging impact on their daily life, including verbal and physical abuse, rejection by loved ones and job insecurity.
There are fears that persecution may worsen if President Kais Saied remains in power. Legislative elections in December 2022 drew a low turnout, and in January there were protests against his near-total control of the country. “We see the current president changing the legislature and government in the country towards his interests,” says the coordinator of Open Doors' work in North Africa. “We expect that the position of the church will further deteriorate if he stays in power.”
Despite these pressures, the number of Christians from a Muslim background is growing gradually.
What’s life like for Christians in Tunisia?
The gap in gender equality in Tunisia is often exploited as a means of religious persecution, and Christian women and girls are particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment and domestic violence. Those who convert from Islam are especially at risk. If a woman's new faith is discovered, this can lead to beatings, house arrest, expulsion from the home, forced marriage, divorce, and the loss of custody of her children. Whatever the persecution looks like, it typically comes from the dominant male in the family – be that the husband, father, brother or whoever follows in rank.
Men who convert to Christianity are considered to have brought shame on their families, and face intimidation, beatings, discrimination in the workplace and death threats. Pressured by their families, Muslim wives may leave a Christian convert, and he may be denied inheritance or even access to his possessions. However, the severity of persecution following conversion often depends on a man's social position and influence within the local community. For some, this means having to relocate permanently because of the intense opposition. Others are expelled from home but later allowed to return after the family’s stance towards their conversion has softened.
How can I help Christians in North Africa?
Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters in Tunisia. Your prayers make an enormous difference to those following Jesus no matter the cost.
Open Doors works with local partners and churches in North Africa to provide leadership and discipleship training, livelihood support, legal aid, trauma counselling, Bibles and pastoral care.
Lord Jesus, thank You for the bravery of Your children in Tunisia. May they not become disheartened when they encounter setbacks but continue to grow in faith. Provide for those forced to flee their homes – may they quickly feel at home wherever they relocate. Give them supernatural strength to cling to You when the pressure is most intense. Help all believers to 'fan into flame the gift of God... [knowing that] the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline' (2 Timothy 1:6-7). Amen.