Middle East and North Africa: Lord, calm the storm
A climate of caution still pervades among international students in Tunisia following a recent wave of racist attacks targeting sub-Saharan Africans. Our contacts in Tunisia have asked for prayer as they continue to provide moral, spiritual, and material support to hundreds of international students in this North African nation.
“The last few weeks have been very, very difficult. Several Sub-Saharans – including students – have been assaulted and arbitrarily imprisoned,” explains Armand. “We have struggled a lot between dealing with our own fears and reassuring students at the national level. We are asking the Lord to calm this storm.”
The surge of racist attacks began in late February following remarks by the country’s president about Black African migrants. In early March, many international students were too fearful to venture out of their homes. The national movement cancelled face-to-face meetings for two weeks and even cancelled its national Bible camp.
A month on, Armand reports that the intense fear and anxiety among sub-Saharan African students has diminished somewhat, but many students remain cautious and are waiting to see how things will progress day by day.
“Several of our students were ready to leave Tunisia permanently before the end of their studies, but we tried to reassure them and their parents,” he said. “But it is not easy. I fear that many students will leave at the end of the academic year and will not return, and that we will have fewer new international students coming into the country.”
Tunisia is a popular destination for international students from Sub-Saharan Africa who are attracted by the quality of the country’s universities, as well as the fact that Tunisia has lower living costs and less strict visa requirements compared to European countries. In response, the Tunisian national movement has developed a vibrant ministry among international students.
In this predominantly Muslim nation, international students make up the vast majority of the national movement. Approximately 500 international students attend weekly bible studies and other activities across 10 cities. Alongside this, Christian students play an important role in providing friendship, welcome, and orientation to international students, many of whom face culture shock, language barriers, and financial and academic challenges.
Armand explains that the Lord has opened wonderful opportunities through this international student ministry: “It really is the humour of the Lord that we have several testimonies of international students who meet the Lord here in an Islamic country. But doing pastoral care work with students in an Islamic context is very difficult and our ministry requires a lot of creativity.”
Please join with us in prayer for students in Tunisia:
- Pray for the Lord to bring His peace and consolation to the sub-Saharan students who have been traumatized by this crisis
- Pray for the authorities to take action to end these racist attacks
- Ask God to turn this situation into an opportunity for Christian students to be witnesses to His love.
- Pray for the Lord to provide for the material needs of sub-Saharan students (food, for example)
For more information about international student ministry in Tunisia, listen to this recent Voices of IFES podcast interview (in French) with Armand.