The Tunisian Arab of Tunisia
Today, 6.5 million Tunisian Arab live in Tunisia, Libya, and France. The vast majority of them—nearly six million—live in their homeland, Tunisia. The Tunisian Arab are an Arab-Berber population whose own culture has been greatly influenced by those of Arabs, Berbers, and the French.
The Tunisian Arab have three distinguishing characteristics: a large middle class, which is a rarity among Arabs; an extremely youthful population; and their unique Tunisian Arabic language, which is used in everyday communications.
In the seventh century B.C., 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. After Tunisia won its independence from France in 1956, the departure of the French, Italians, and Jews left Tunisia with a homogeneous Arab-Berber population.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Tunisia is the smallest country in North Africa. The northern part of the country contains two branches of the Atlas Mountains, while the Sahara Desert lies in the south. Tunisia has hot, dry summers and warm, wet winters. Eighty percent of the Tunisian Arab are farmers who live in the northern part of the country. There, they raise mainly fruits and cereals by using primitive farming methods. Many rural communities are located in natural caves or in artificial underground dwellings. They have the advantage of being warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
Twenty percent of the Tunisian Arab live in cities. However, this number is gradually increasing. A lack of housing development has forced many of them to live in immigrant settlements called gourbis, which are temporary huts made from any available materials. Some of the more fortunate families live in windowless, flat-roofed buildings.
The Tunisian Arab typically live as extended families. Their small homes have sparsely furnished rooms. Family life is centered on the inner courtyard. Public baths provide weekly social and sanitary functions in Tunisian towns. In general, they are very friendly people who have a strong sense of family honor. They are quite hospitable to strangers and extremely loyal to family and friends.
Most of the Tunisian Arab wear a peculiar mixture of European and Arabian-style clothing. The status of Arab women has changed dramatically in the last twenty years. For instance, women are no longer required to wear veils in public.
Although the Tunisian cuisine closely resembles that of other North African countries, it is superior in quality. Their staple dish 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 Arab 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. Their religious practices include various ceremonies and festivals.
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?
Although the Tunisian government has nationalized all religious schools and abolished all religious courts, Islam remains the state religion. The Tunisian Arab are tolerant of the beliefs of others, including foreign minorities. However, they are not favorable of Christian proselytizing. Prayer is the key to seeing them reached with the Gospel of Christ.
- Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to go to Tunisia and share Christ with the Tunisian Arab.
- Pray that God will grant wisdom and favor to the missions agencies currently targeting the Tunisian Arab.
- Ask God to strengthen, encourage, and protect the small number of Tunisian Arab believers.
- Pray that the Lord will use these converts to share the Gospel with their own people.
- Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that are keeping the Tunisian Arab bound.
- Pray that Jesus will begin revealing Himself to the Tunisian Arab through dreams and visions.
- 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 the Tunisian Arab by the year 2000.
See also the following Maghrebi Arab groups:
The Algerian Arab of Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco;
The Arabized Berber; and
The Moroccan Arab.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Tunisian Arab
- Country: Tunisia
- Their language: Ifriqi (Maghribi)
- Largest religion:
- Christians: <1%
- Church members: 8,962
- Scriptures in their own language: Bible
- Jesus Film in their own language: Available
- Christian broadcasts in their own language: Available
- Mission agencies working among this people: 8
- Persons who have heard the Gospel: 2,996,400 (51%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 2,978,400 (49%)
- Country: Tunisia
- Major peoples in size order:
- Major religions:
- Number of denominations: 14
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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