Tunisian interfaith procession calls for tolerance instead of hateWed, 16 Aug 2023 04:39:42 GMT

Hundreds of Tunisians joined an interfaith ceremony outside the capital where the sermons urged tolerance in the face of rising anti-immigrant sentiment. During the Feast of the Assumption ceremony in Tunis’ La Goulette suburb on Tuesday, Catholic and Muslim participants marched behind a Madonna statue as it was carried to the town hall. There, the archbishop of Tunis and the bishop of Trapani, Italy delivered sermons alluding to Tunisia’s tense migration politics. The tradition, born in the mid-19th century when La Goulette was home to Sicilians, Sephardic Jews, Maltese, Greeks and Spaniards, was halted by Tunisian officials in 1964. It was revived in 2017, and each year since then, the Virgin Mary figurine has been carried slightly farther from Tunisia’s oldest church, consecrated in 1879.In his mass, Archbishop of Tunis Ilario Antoniazzi, 75, said the procession aimed to show how La Goulette and Tunisia could offer a model for coexistence between different religions and nationalities. “Let’s not forget that 100 years ago, when the Virgin Mary made the journey from Trapani (Sicily) to La Goulette, she was well-received and respected,” he told the procession.Following an anti-immigrant diatribe by Tunisian President Kais Saied in February, hundreds of migrants have lost their jobs and homes, assaults have been reported and several thousand people have been repatriated. Humanitarian sources say at least 2,000 sub-Saharan Africans have been expelled or forcibly transferred by Tunisian security forces to desert regions bordering Libya or Algeria.Since the start of July, at least 27 migrants have been found dead after being abandoned in the desert, a source told AFP last week.Also speaking outside La Goulette’s town hall, Bishop of Trapani Pietro Maria Fragnelli said he hoped the “sons of our dear country Tunisia” would become “capable of love instead of hate, and union instead of division”.