Introduction / History The majority of Tunisian Arabs of these live in their homeland, Tunisia. They are an Arab-Berber group whose own culture has been greatly influenced by those of Arabs, Berbers, and the French. The Tunisian Arabs in France are distinguished from other Arabs by their ancestry and language, Ifriqi (or Maghribi).
In the seventh century, Arab invaders overran the Tunisian Berber tribe, Tunisia's original inhabitants. This eventually led to an almost complete Islamization and Arabization of the people of that country.
In 1956, Tunisia won its independence from France, and by 1959, had successfully begun improving its national education level. However, this success was soon overshadowed by a saturated labor market. As a result, a large number of highly educated Arabs emigrated to Libya and France in search of jobs. Today, a large number of Tunisian Arabs live in France.
What are their lives like? The climate in France is generally mild with an average annual rainfall of over 30 inches. It also has the fifth largest economy in the world, with a strong industrial and agricultural base. The stability and growth of the economy have helped the people of France to maintain a high standard of living. Government subsidies and social policies are funded by high taxation. Most citizens are employed in unskilled and semi-skilled occupations, although some do hold professional positions. Job expansion during the 1990s has favored women.
Most Tunisian Arabs living in France are concentrated in Paris. However, there are smaller communities around Lille and up to the Channel coast. The majority live in large, low-cost urban houses. Such houses are usually only large enough to hold a single nuclear family. This has forced changes in their traditional family life, which was revolved around the extended family.
In general, Tunisian Arabs are a friendly people who have a strong sense of family honor. They are quite hospitable to strangers and extremely loyal to family and friends.
Western influences on the Arabs are becoming increasingly more noticeable. For example, many Arabs now wear European clothing, or a peculiar mixture of European and Arabian styles. Women are no longer required to keep their faces veiled in public. Their everyday language is a colloquial Arabic dialect, but the French language is commonly used, especially for business and trade.
What are their beliefs? Virtually all Tunisian Arabs are Muslim. They adhere to the teachings of the Koran and observe the five "pillars" of Islam, which include: affirming that Allah is the only god and that Mohammed is his prophet; praying; giving alms; fasting; and making a pilgrimage to Mecca. However, in France, the mosque has lost its recognition as the mot important building among the Tunisian Arab. Most of them now use the communal facilities of their apartment buildings or housing estates as their places of worship.
Religious communities in France are allowed to operate their own schools with public funding covering most of their costs. As of 1990, however, no Muslim schools have been established in this system. Muslim children tend to be sent to state schools rather than religious schools. This is partly due to the cost of the schools, and because religious schools are less common in the urban areas where Muslims are concentrated. This means that they have little access to religious education. However, most primary schools with a large number of North African students often provide some Arabic instruction as part of their general curriculum. By the end of the 1980s, most mosques were providing some form of instruction for the growing number of Muslim children.
What are their needs? The Muslims who have grown up in France have experienced its secular system of education. These life experiences are now causing them to consciously analyze Islam and its culture. Prayer is the key to seeing them reached with the Gospel.
Prayer Points * Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to go to France and share Christ with Tunisian Arabs.
* Pray that God will grant wisdom and favor to missions agencies focusing on Tunisian Arabs.
* Ask God to strengthen and encourage the small number of Tunisian Arab Christians.
* Pray that the Lord will give these believers opportunities to share the Gospel with their own people.
* Ask God to raise up teams of intercessors who will begin to faithfully stand in the gap for the Arabs.
* Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among Tunisian Arabs.