Christian population growing in Muslim-majority Tunisia

Tunisia, a country whose population is made up of 99 percent of Sunni Muslims, is reportedly enjoying a growth in the Christian community since the year 2000, despite the ongoing persecution and rejection of the faith by society.

(REUTERS / Zohra Bensemra)Shadows of protesters on the Tunisian flag, in Tunis January 15, 2011

Mustapha, a full-time worker for the Church in Tunis, told Open Doors USA that he believed the number of Muslims in their country continues to drop each day. Although Christianity first made an appearance in the '70s through foreigners, he said the Church in Tunisia only started to have real growth after 2000.

A former Muslim who later embraced the Christian faith, Mustapha now spends many hours a week contextualizing Christianity into the Tunisian environment. He recalled that they began with house churches because they had no church buildings of their own. They were then eventually permitted to use a church in 2006 that foreigners had utilized before. While they began with only six people, they now have around 90 members of different age groups.

According to Mustapha, one of the challenges that their church had to face was to create a house of worship that suited their situation. They also had to deal with the lack of a model that they could pattern their ministries after, which meant they had to create their own system of training and preaching.

"In the Muslim world, people know the mosque; that is our background," Mustapha explained. "It's the place where people go to pray, to do their religious duties. New converts don't understand that they are part of the Church and that Church is about people, members, about ministry, about giving and not only about receiving."

In a 2016 report, the Vatican Insider highlighted the difficulties that the Church in Tunisia faced. However, the Archbishop of Tunisia also noted that there was peaceful coexistence between the Christian and Muslim communities in the country.

Fr. Ilario Antoniazzi, 69, admitted at the time that Christians in Tunisia were not able to express their faith in public and could only do so inside churches and buildings owned by religious congregations. Nevertheless, their new Constitution now has a provision for freedom of conscience. He said that though many may see Tunisia as an "unstable Muslim country," there is still hope for Christianity in their nation.