By a Pioneer in Tunisia
In comparison to our other experience of being here during an election in 2009 – in which the former President, Ben Ali, won yet again and the daily activities went on as if no big event was happening – the atmosphere for this election was more like Christmas Day in the States. The streets were fairly bare and quiet. No news of large protests or quarrels, not even in the voting lines. One person told us that people hardly spoke to each other and didn’t discuss who they were voting for (although we heard different reports elsewhere). Overall, it was a smooth and excellent process. Late on Sunday afternoon our gardener came to show off his inked finger to prove that he voted. He was eager to tell us who he voted for and why. He elaborated on why he did not vote for the moderate Islamic group Ennahda. With other news going on that day, it appeared to us that all our prayers were answered and Tunisia would escape the grasp of turning a bit conservative.
Come Monday afternoon, a local radio station somehow obtained leaked information, from many of the voting stations throughout Tunisia, that Ennahda had large percentages of the votes, even from foreign absentee ballots. The tensions seemed to have flipped back on. The shopkeeper next to our house told us, ‘Don’t fear. I didn’t vote for them, but they are not bad; just some of the people in the streets who follow them are crazy.’ As official results are being announced, it seems that this group has won at least forty percent of the electoral seats. Some human rights groups have already asked for a confirmation from their leader that there will be certain freedoms guaranteed in the new constitution – in which he gave the politicans answer of ‘yes’. Yet, in February when he returned to Tunisia from exile, he said that there was high unemployment because women had the men’s jobs. Women were beginning to wonder if they were going to lose all the rights and freedoms they had obtained under the former government.
So, why the popularity? The answer is to regain their Tunisian identity, which is Arab and Muslim. Many have felt that they lost that along with their culture. Before, a Tunisian with a more conservative religious practice (wearing a veil, having a large beard, etc) was interrogated and looked into by the police for being fundamentalist and bringing terrorism into the land of tourism. Many feel that they have suffered religious oppression.
In light of it all, we are reminded that God sets the authorities in place to accomplish His greater plan. He is the King of kings. Many local believers have expressed their readiness to persevere and suffer persecution, if it comes to that, so that the Church would grow. Please continue to fervently pray for the salvation of the Tunisian people. Continue to pray that freedom will still be accomplished and all will remain safe. We encourage you to visit to watch and read a few Tunisian believers’ testimonials and receive other news and updates from other like-minded people. These stories help make it seem all worthwhile.