Introduction / History The majority of Tunisian Arabs live in their homeland, Tunisia. They are an Arab-Berber population whose own culture has been greatly influenced by those of Arabs, Berbers, and the French. They have two distinguishing characteristics: a large middle class-a rarity among Arabs-and an extremely youthful population.
In the seventh century, Arab invaders overran the Tunisian Berber tribes, 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.
What are their lives like? In general, Tunisian Arabs are a friendly people who have a strong sense of family honor. They are exceptionally hospitable and courteous to those they meet. They are also extremely loyal to family and friends.
Western influences on the Arabs are becoming increasingly more noticeable. For example, many Arabs now wear Western clothing, or a peculiar mixture of Western and Arabian styles. The status of Arab women has also changed dramatically in the last twenty years. For instance, women are no longer required to wear veils in public. Also, women previously received little or no education and were confined to their homes. Today, they have the legal right to participate fully in Libyan society.
Most Tunisian Arabs live in the urban areas of Libya's northwest province of Tripolitania. There, they live in apartments that are only large enough to house one nuclear family. Thus, the extended family is prevented from living together. Some families live in more spacious dwellings located in the city's suburban areas.
The staple dish of Tunisian Arabs is called couscous. It consists of steamed semolina served over a vegetable stew. The family eats from a common bowl, using neither utensils nor individual plates. 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.
The belief in jinnis also still exists. These are-according to Muslim legend-spirits capable of assuming human or animal form and exercising influence over people. The Arab believe that such a spirit can possess a human by entering through the brain, and can only be removed in ceremonies performed by a "seer" skilled in "jinn-lore."
What are their needs? Sunni Islam is the state religion of Tunisia and no form of Christian witness is permitted. Worship groups and congregations of all immigrants are strictly monitored. Prayer is a key to seeing Tunisian Arabs reached with the Gospel of Christ.
Prayer Points * Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to go to Tunisia and share Christ with Tunisian Arabs.
* Pray that the laws which restrict the preaching of the Gospel in Tunisia will be changed.
* Ask God to strengthen, encourage, and protect the small number of Tunisian Arab Christians.
* Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among Tunisian Arabs.