The Hammam-Lif community - Tunisia

Our life "together", Oblates and Little Sisters of the Assumption: the aim of our presence among the Tunisian people.

After three years of life in an inter-Assumption community, we would like to share our sisterly and apostolic journey, adding to the testimonies we have already given in the Pain de Chez Nous of the 20 September 2012. Since January 2011 the country where we live has been in a state of crisis. 
The "wonderful Jasmine Revolu-tion" has become an upheaval! Within the turbulent situation of the country in crisis we are trying to remain witnesses to Hope among a divided people. Our own faith in God is stimulated by the prayer of the Moslem people that gives a rhythm to their life, because we cannot remain indifferent to the call to prayer that we hear five times a day. 
There are three parts to this brief account: The situation of the country - Our sisterly/ apostolic life - The Church in Tunisia 

1. The situation of Tunisia today:

"The country is drowning… but it doesn’t know how to swim any more" – that is what was said to me this morning by Lamia, who helps in our house and has a hard struggle to support her family. There is a succession of government crises. We are entering into the third phase of the transition. The population is calling for the resignation of the Islamist government which holds all the important ministries: family, culture, education, home affairs (no safety). A large number of the administrative districts are run by the Ennadhists (Islamists). After the second political assassination of an opposition leader, a young father of a family, the demon-trations have been continuing and the Constitution has still not been drawn up! The present leaders are being asked to leave the government as quickly as possible! That is the cry from the people. The legal uncertainty cannot go on. The price of basic foodstuffs is rising continuously. Families are becoming impoverished. Youth unem-ployment is increasing. But, within this distressing confusion a people is rising up and reacting in soli-darity! Many well-organised associations have been set up in the course of three years and civil society is not giving up in the face of the chaos – it is reacting and making efforts. Hope is not dead! 

2. Our sisterly/ apostolic life:

The meaning of our life here – to reveal the Face of Christ by our lives rooted in Jesus Christ, each of us wishing, where she is, to be a sign of communion and hope in the midst of our brothers and sisters who welcome us, experiencing encounter and fraternity through prayer and the richness of our differences! Our two Oblate sisters, younger that we are, help us through their dynamism and the professional work they tell us about to be a community that is alive and committed in everyday life! The household chores are also shared and each of us is involved, generously and courageously! 
We have friendly relations with our near neighbours and some local people living alone whom we visit regularly. The local traders are welcoming. The Imam, our neighbour, came one evening to share his own journey of conversion to God, something astonishing for a man in the midst of a group of women, in their house. He even took the time to sit down. The young people who have a cybercafé opposite us also like to come and help us out when we have problems and answer our questions about computers! They like to prolong the visit with very wide-ranging conversations about their country and their future. A Danish woman, a friend of ours who is married to a Tunisian, spends part of the afternoon with us from time to time. Conversation with her has to do with the Bible which she reads every day and which raises questions for her. 
The house at Rades, initially a Family Home, has become an institution for persons who are dependent. The health needs are becoming more and more acute. Many persons are affected by cognitive problems that are more or less serious and which sometimes require psychiatric treatment. The former director has just retired, after seventeen years of service. She has been replaced by a young woman, also the wife of a Tunisian, who is starting off enthusiastically. The friendly meetings for women of mixed marriages (Christians married to Tunisians) also mobilise us and we like to meet them, dialogue with them and offer them support in their sometimes difficult journey. They like to come to the community where it is easier to dialogue. We are a link between the Church and these persons. Through their whole life they are at the base of the Islamic-Christian dialogue. 
Françoise, who is at present in Burkina for two months, will enrich the community with a new experience. Aren’t we now attached to Africa? When she comes back she will return to the Library in Carthage where young students and university staff carry out their research and prepare their theses. It is an enriching space for exchanges. She will also continue the accompaniment of the volunteers from the DCC (a Christian voluntary service), replying to their questions about the country and about their Christian faith. 

3. Our Church in Tunisia:

We have had a new Archbishop since April 2013: Father Ilario Antoniazzi. He comes from the Near East and has spent the greater part of his life in Palestine, parish priest of a parish in Nazareth! He knows Arabic "from within". Since he speaks the language of this people the welcome seems to be warm! He knows what the suffering of minority families comprises, families that are over-whelmed by religious fundamentalism, and he suffers with all the Christians persecuted for their faith. With the Universal Church we took part in the great prayer vigil organised on the evening of September the 7th, in union with Pope Francis and many Christian comunities throughout the world. After the Eucharist at 6.30 p.m., at which the Archbishop presided, there was a prayer vigil from 8 to 11 p.m. that brought together the faithful, believers and supplicants! Young men and women, for the most part students from sub-Saharan Africa, animated the vigil which had been well prepared by our priests. The Christian commitment of the young Africans is a comfort to us. The faith is not dead! 
Through this general outline we are in communion with a people and are expecting, through the prayer of each of you who read this, the best development for this people that is still in the midst of turmoil and looking forward to better days. Thank you! 
The community: Sisters Raymonde, Béatrice, Elisabeth, Françoise, Juliette 


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