After becoming a Christian as a young man in Syria, Boutros had fled to Egypt to escape Muslim family members who were trying to kill him. He was then adopted by a Coptic Christian family in Egypt. When he wanted to marry Tani, a Christian Tunisian lady, there were some legal issues. Tani’s Tunisian ID card identified her as a Muslim, while Boutros was registered as a Christian.
Neither Tunisia nor Egypt would allow a Muslim woman to marry a Christian man, but by God’s grace the Tunisian embassy in Egypt issued the paperwork and they were able to marry in 2009.
CALLED TO TUNISIA
In 2010, the couple felt called to Tani’s home country of Tunisia. But in early 2011, before they could make the move, the Arab Spring began to sweep the region. Despite the unrest, the couple sold everything and with their baby daughter, they entered Tunisia on a six-month tourist visa.
After getting settled, they met a 17-year-old girl through their Internet ministry whose parents threatened to kick her out of the house. Tani and Boutros invited the girl to live with them for a few weeks and soon others experiencing persecution from family members began staying with them as well. VOM started supporting their safe-house ministry.
The large living room functioned both as a gathering place for their weekly house-church meeting and as a communal reading room throughout the week. Since most persecution in Tunisia comes from immediate family members, Christians are often unable to read their Bibles openly or even to keep one at home. The living room was a welcoming space to read, worship and pray, and coffee was always ready for those who wanted it.
ACCUSED OF EVANGELISM
In addition to operating a mobile medical clinic in rural regions and managing the only Christian bookstore in the country, Tani and Boutros also began feeding the homeless. Many noticed that while Tunisian Muslims weren’t serving the needy, this Christian couple was. And they soon had many Muslim volunteers serving alongside them.
Unexpected publicity about their homeless ministry, however, caught the attention of the Tunisian government. The Muslim volunteers became angry at Tani and Boutros, persuaded that they had been inadvertently helping them spread their foreign religion. “We told them, ‘You are beside us all the time; we don’t distribute literature,’” Tani said.
The couple began to receive threatening messages from Tunisians who were offended that they were sharing the Gospel in their Muslim country. Then, the immigration department told Boutros he was a danger to national security and had to leave the country because of his ministry work.
Tani and Boutros continued their ministry work under the government’s close scrutiny for another two years, but in 2018 the police gave Boutros an ultimatum. “You are here illegally,” they told him, “and if you don’t get out now you’ll go to prison for three years.”
Their time in Tunisia was finished, but they were pleased with the work God had helped them accomplish in their six years there.
Today the couple and their two daughters have settled in a new country, where they minister to Syrian refugees and continue their online work in the Arab world. They also rejoice that the church they planted in Tunisia continues to meet for study and worship.
The Arab Spring uprising of 2011 brought many political changes to the region, but it also served as a spiritual revolution that cracked open the doors of Islam. “There is a huge number of people who are contacting us privately,” Tani said. “They are asking about Jesus.”
And Tani and Boutros will joyfully continue to answer their questions and increase their unyielding outreach.