With a surface area of 163,610 km2, Tunisia is the smallest country in North Africa, a "buffer state" between Algeria and Libya, bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north. Nearly 40% of Tunisia's territory is covered by the Sahara Desert.
The vast majority of the 10.8 million Tunisians live in urban areas. The rural population is concentrated in the prosperous and fertile agricultural regions in the northeast and in the Sahel. As for the Berbers, they live in a few isolated communities established in the south of the country.
Tunis,the capital,from which the country derives its name, is also the primary city with a population of 730,000 or 2 million counting the metropolitan area which then accounts for one-fifth of the countries total population.
The official language is Arabic. Linguistically Tunisia is the most homogenous of the countries in North Africa. French is taught as a secondary language in schools and is widely used in commerce and administration. Islam is the state religion with 99% of the population being Sunni.
Early in its history Tunisia was a Phoenician colony. In the 5th Century B.C., Carthage controlled the commerce of the central Mediterranean. Tunisia was first part of the Roman Empire, then the Byzantine Empire after having been invaded by the Vandals in 439 B.C. The Arabs, propagators of Islam, had progressed to North Africa by the middle of the 7th Century. Founded in 670, the city of Kairouan became an important military base protecting the invading troops. This city also had important religious influence as a center of Muslim culture. Islam therefore rapidly infiltrated the Berber tribes. In 698 the Arabs seized Carthage and established the city of Tunis.
In the 15th Century Tunisia which was known as Ifriqiya or Asia Minor, made up a province of the Arab and Muslim Empires. Between 1148 and 1160 the Normans placed Tunis under their control. After a short Moroccan domination, Ifriqiya became once again a part of the empires directed by Bagdad and Cairo. The provincial governments meanwhile were conducted locally by Berber tribes. At the beginning of the 16th Century Spain and the Ottoman Turks disputed over control of Tunisia. The Ottomans ended Spanish domination in 1574 and Tunisia became a Berber state. Following a brief occupation of the Tunisian territory the Otttomans finally recognized de facto Tunisian independence. It then became a monarchy governed by officers of the Ottoman occupation force. After the occupation of Algeria by France, Tunisia was controlled simultaneously by France, Great Britain and Italy.
In 1883 Tunisia became a French protectorate. Although the monarchy was maintained the government was also under French control. French and Italian colonization went into effect on a grand scale and the most fertile lands were nationalized and awarded to Europeans. The first grass roots militant efforts for independence began in 1920. In 1934 the Neo-Dustour or New Constitution Party, led by the lawyer Habib Bourguiba, revived the Tunisian Nationalist Movement.
In 1950 France undertook political reforms destined to permit Tunisia to enjoy an internal autonomy and to work in cooperation with France. On March 20, 1956, Tunisia succeeded in obtaining independence and Bourguiba became Prime Minister and later President after the abolition of the monarchy by the National Assembly July 25, 1957. On November 7, 1987 General Zine el-Abdine ben Ali dismissed President Bourguiba for his inability to govern and thus succeeded him as president.
In 1989, he was elected president of the Republic, reelected in 1994, 1999, 2004 (following a constitutional amendment) and in 2009, although in 2009 he didn't attain his usual level of 90% of votes. President Ben Ali maintained a tight grip on the presidency and responded to mounting Islamicism with implacable pressure. He was maintaining relations with the West while thwarting the pressure of Islamists and at the same time emphasizing the Arab and Islamic character of Tunisia.
The Tunisian revolution began December 17 2010 with the suicide of Mohamed Bouazizi in Sidi Bouzid, a town of 40,000 in the center of the country. This street vendor killed himself to protest against unemployment and police brutality. His death was the spark that triggered dozens of protests around the country which were repressed by the police with unusual violence. In early 2011, the "Jasmine" revolution forced Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and his family to flee from his country to Saudi Arabia (January 14, 2011). That a head of state was thus obliged to relinquish power and flee the country is a first in the history of Arab countries. In total, according to the UN Committee on Human Rights the troubles caused 219 deaths and 510 injuries.
The first six months of transition remained tense, interspersed with incidents. Elections for the new Constituent Assembly were held in late October 2011, and in December, it elected human rights activist Moncef MARZOUKI as interim president. The Assembly began drafting a new constitution in February 2012, and released a second working draft in December 2012. The interim government has announced that presidential and parliamentary elections will be held in late 2013.
Tunisia experienced rapid and drastic changes after the Arab Spring first erupted in this North-African country in 2011. Christians have seen an unprecedented spiritual openness in the country and see discipleship as the biggest need for this moment. In contrast to 15 years ago, now churches choose to be visible, something that is not appreciated by everyone. Last year, the church experienced a lot of growth outside the capital, Tunis. Please see: Spiritual Openness
Joshua Project reports there are 0.22% Christians with 0.00% evangelical. Christian ministries, active in outreach via satellite television and internet, report a remarkable increase in the number of responses and webmail as a result of their activities.
The constitution provides for freedom of religion, although the government imposes some restrictions. Churches can operate freely as long as they do not evangelise. The Christian community is largely foreign residents and native-born citizens of European or Arab descent. There are no laws against conversion from Islam; however, government officials use bureaucratic means to discourage it, and new Christians face ostracism.
In January 2013, the Christian Association Open Doors, which specializes in defending the oppressed Church and Christians in the world, published its traditional index of persecution. There has been a continual deterioration in the situation of believers in Tunisia which is ranked 30th in the list of 50 countries where faith in Christ costs the most. The country previously held the 43rd, 37th and 35th spots in the past 3 years.