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Tunisians preach tolerance as Muslims, Jews join Christian celebration


Manifesting a rare exhibition of religious solidarity, dozens of Muslims and Jews gathered in a port area at the Tunisian capital to witness the revival of “The Madonna of Trapani”, a Catholic tradition introduced to Tunis a century ago.

The statue of “the Madonna of Trapani” was presented to Tunisians of all religions in celebration of the mid-August feast of the Assumption of Our Lady, on Wednesday.

As scores of Muslim residents and Jews of French origin who were born in Tunisia gathered outside the church at La Goulette, prayers were led by a multi-cultural Catholic ministry, including Italians, Sub-Saharan Africans and Asians.

In the past, the procession left the 19th century church of Saint Augustin and Saint Fidèle and headed toward the coast to bless the sailors who were about to take to the sea.

For security concerns, this year’s procession was kept within the church compound.

Only a handful of the hundreds of people outside the church were selected by alerted security forces to attend the procession, which only started to resume last year after a fifty-year pause.

Home to Tunisia’s main commercial port, La Goulette was a town where Italian, Maltese, Jews, Christians and Muslims coexisted for decades.

The ceremony was an occasion for people of different religions in Tunisia to come together once more.

The small North African country is known as a leading Arab country in terms of dealing with minorities and women.

Last year, Tunisia granted Muslim women the right to marry non-Muslims, while President Beji Caid Essebsi proposed earlier this month giving women equal inheritance rights despite protests from thousands of people objecting to any challenge to Islamic law.