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Crossing Africa: Faith on the Road – a film on religion, migration and social identities

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By Emna Gelacia, Middle East and North Africa Programmes Assistant at Minority Rights Group

Stories of migrants in transit countries, although overlooked in mainstream media, can be extraordinarily rich and complicated especially for minorities. Crossing Africa: Faith on the Road explores how religion, migration and other social identities can shape the everyday lives of some of sub-Saharan Africans in Tunisia.

The documentary tells the story of an Ivoirian woman who is a member of a tiny makeshift church set up by a group of migrants in Tunis. She tells us about her unexpected journey to Tunisia, her daily life, her struggles as well as her future aspirations. Through her story, the film shows how a group of Sub-Saharan Evangelical Christians in Tunis use the space of the Church not only to share spiritual values but also to show solidarity and support across the community.

Sub-Saharan migrants face racial discrimination, but their situation is compounded by language barriers, documentation issues and their limited access to education and health care as a result. They are frequently abused, exploited and even subjected to targeted attacks. La Soukra, a suburb of Tunis, is where many have settled, working low paying jobs with little to no protection. Every Sunday, they meet in a small warehouse in one of the poorer corners of this area to worship together. The congregation of about 30 people is small, yet strong and vibrant.

Basile Yao, a character in the short documentary film ‘Crossing Africa: Faith on the Road’, answering questions from the audience during the ‘Minorities and minoritized groups in Tunisia, between discrimination and recognition of diversity’ panel discussion, Tunis, 13 December 2021. Next to him is Philippa Day, the film’s Director.

Despite their precarious situation, some Sub-Saharans have nevertheless managed to find ways to practice their faith by establishing their own place of worship in one of the poorer parts of the capital. The narrative of this film is light at times, showing the joy of the Church, the music and the visual richness of the Sunday dress. In contrast, many of the congregation are forced to live their daily lives with many difficulties. Crossing Africa: Faith on the Road aims to avoid painting a caricature of misery. Instead, it strives to capture the strength and force that has allowed these people to create a community from nothing, with the Church at the heart.

‘Crossing Africa: Faith on the Road’ is a short documentary film produced by Minority Rights Group and directed by Sindbad Production within the framework of the programme ‘Protecting the Rights of Religious Minorities‘ funded by NORAD.

Photo: Still from the documentary film Crossing Africa: Faith on the Road by Sindbad Production.

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