Tunisia is known for it’s magnificent ancient ruins and golden beaches nestled along the Mediterranean coastline. In recent years, social unrest and violence in the country has made headlines following the revolution in 2011 that was wide-spread in the Arab world. In 2015, there was also two attacks on foreign tourists, both committed by Islamic terrorist groups.
The population in Tunisia, and many other North African countries, is considered by locals to be entirely Muslim. For a long time in Tunisia, locals were under the impression that churches were only for foreigners and that there were no Tunisian believers at all. However there are believers, and the church is growing.
Open Doors recently visited Tunisia and met believers from Muslim backgrounds. Many share similar testimonies of coming to faith. Some heard the gospel through media such as the radio or Facebook, others heard the message from a friend. For those whom Open Doors visited, their families hated their new faith in Jesus, some were called ‘Kafir’, a traitor. Maysam*, in her early twenties, was disowned by her own family.
Maysam was studying at university when she became a Christian, and had to stop her studies when her family put her under house arrest. “A month after my conversion, my family discovered it,” she said. “My brothers even threatened to kill me.”
Maysam recounts, “‘You will stay at home, you are not worthy to study,’ my parents said. My sister beat me, my mother tried to break my glasses. They locked me in the room of my parents. I remember how I fell asleep. I was on my left shoulder and I felt someone coming onto the mattress, but the door was closed, there was nobody. I thought I felt this because of the stress, so I turned. I felt the mattress being touched again. Then there was this voice: ‘Don’t think that you are alone; I am with you always.’”
I often hear stories like Maysam’s, but her’s resonated with me more than usual. Like her, I’m in my early twenties and my time at university was a real turning point in my faith. I imagine if things were different and I had grown up in Tunisia, I may have been friends with Maysam.
What’s hard to imagine, are the consequences of her faith in Jesus. Her story wrenched my heart. Maysam was forced to stop her studies. She was beaten by her own sister and locked away. What hit home for me, was that her mum tried to break her glasses. I wear glasses as well, and I know taking them away from someone is basically blinding them. Yet through that suffering God held her tight, reassuring her, “I am with you always.” How great is our God!
Maysam found a way to flee. Her family found out where she was hiding and convinced her to return home. When she returned, one of her brothers said, “You need to choose: return to being a Muslim, where you will remain at home, you will not study or work, and you will wait for a husband who will take you as a shame. Or, remain a Christian and have no place with us.”
God gave her strength, and she made it clear she would not renounce her faith in Jesus. Her brother ordered her to take off her glasses, “He came to beat me, but his hand was stopped centimetres from my face. He tried to hit me with his knee, but his knee also stopped without touching me. Then I hugged him. I went to my other brother, I hugged him too.”
Again she fled, this time further, “I am alone now. My mother told me through the phone that I am no longer her daughter. But I have since found a new spiritual family in the church. God never leaves me alone.”
Although I didn’t grow up in Tunisia and I don’t know Maysam, I can pray for my sister, who suffered – yet endures, because she knows that Jesus is worth it all.
*Name changed for security purposes.
Praise God for the way He has worked in Maysam’s life, and that many are coming to know Christ in Tunisia.