844 days, 20,256 hours, 1,215,360 minutes, or 72,921,600 seconds. That is the approximate duration of my world tour. I never wanted it to end and now, in a manner of speaking, I suppose it never has to. If you wish to go by country do so by clicking on one above. They are numbered in the order I visited them, more or less. If you enjoy reading about it even a tenth as much as I enjoyed living it then you will not have wasted your time. Grab a refreshing beverage, settle in a comfortable chair, and make a journey across the world, experiencing it as I did. Then get off your ass and check it out for yourself. You're not getting any younger.

J.I. - Jesus Incognito (Tunis, Tunisia)

[Author's Note: I arrived in Tunis on September 10th, 2010 and left two months later. The Arab Spring began in Tunisia on December 18th, 2010, a day after the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi. I missed the festivities by about a month or so. Some would say I dodged a bullet but I cannot help feeling like I missed the boat. How often do you have the chance to watch history unfold from the front row? It is interesting for me to go back and read about my experiences at the time. Yes, I could almost taste repression in the air but if you told me the powder keg was about to ignite I would have been incredulous in the extreme. Yet, there it was boiling just beneath the surface. Keep this in mind when reading my Tunisia posts. It makes for a fascinating subtext.]

Oct 1st, 2010 - Tunisia is 98% Sunni Muslim. If I were a Christian missionary I suppose I could view that statistic as the basis for an act of futility or choose to see it as one 'hell' of an opportunity. Think of all the potential converts. Fish in a barrel? Only one problem. It is technically illegal for non-Muslims to proselytize to Muslims. Missionary groups are allowed to be here but not allowed to go full throttle, at least not with the 'yet to be convinced'. They are allowed to preach to the choir, so to speak, but considering the very small population of Christians (or Jews for that matter) it is not as if there will be large revivals. And even then there are strict requirements on gatherings. It is legal for a Muslim to convert to another religion just not at the behest of a non-Muslim. What if they see the light on their 'own'? Well, game on I guess. 

Sooooooo you are allowed to be a non-Muslim. Muslims are allowed to convert but it has to be....organic and spontaneous....I guess. Non-Muslims are allowed to practice their faith but are not allowed to proselytize. Non-Muslim foreigners are allowed into the country but not allowed to conduct any type of 'missionary' activity, at least not with those outside their faith. See where I'm headed with this?

A Tunisian friend invited me to an English club he attends established by a group of young Americans, mostly from Texas I believe. The idea behind the club is to accelerate a cultural exchange and give Tunisians studying English a chance to practice with native speakers. Super. The group met in a courtyard inside Tunis' medina. From the onset something felt a little off. I could tell from the moment that I was introduced to one of my fellow Americans that 'outsiders' were not particularly welcome. And the way one of the females was addressing the group (while standing on a chair) seemed a little like she was speaking to a class of 1st graders. Not that there is anything particularly suspicious in that behavior (especially when speaking to folks that may not have a grasp of English) but something about the whole scene felt a little 'preachy'. After speaking to a few Tunisians that were in attendance I realized why. 

Apparently, it starts with these meetings and as American members of the group become better acquainted with their Tunisian counterparts the relationship becomes more intimate (coffee dates, dinner invitations, etc.). At some point, when a member of Jesus Incognito (my name, not theirs) is sufficiently confident that their friend will not report them, out comes the Bible.

One Tunisian women I spoke with thought that I was part of the gang. This explained questions like 'What do you think of Islam?' followed by an explanation as to why it is superior (i.e. the true path). Awkwaaaaaaard!!! However, once she realized I was not part of the Christian Assault Squad she began sharing some of her experiences and explained how members of J.I. slowly introduce their beliefs to possible convertees. English practice, childish games, coffee, dinner, Jesus.

Obviously, these folks are supported by a religiously affiliated group back in the US. As I understand it they come for varying intervals to live and work/volunteer. In my view they are taking a risk as you need not possess Sherlock Holmes-type mental acuity to spot their ulterior motive. This probably explains J.I.'s preferred ban on outsiders. My Tunisian pal was actually told not to bring other Americans next time.

How big a risk? Well, it appears that although they are technically committing a crime, from what I have read it is not something that would normally be addressed directly. It is much more likely that visa renewals might be rejected or kind 'invitations' to leave the country might ensue. I am not sure it is worth taking that chance but J.I. Apparently does. Granted, it is a crime quite difficult to prove as the difference between 'discussing' and 'proselytizing' is a bit blurry. Still, I must question the wisdom of such an enterprise.

Chance of success plus risks equal futile enterprise. If not for one glaring problem this type of activity would not much concern me. When you consider that many in the Arab world are suspicious of US motives to begin with it is a little unsettling to ponder the consequences. Does this not play into the whole 'conspiracy of the west' to stamp out Islam and replace it with Christianity or Judaism? We have enough PR issues as it is without the Bible thumpers confirming what radical elements in the Muslim world have been saying for years. In my opinion they are doing more harm than good and creating an atmosphere of suspicion and mistrust. Call me crazy but I think their resources could be focused elsewhere. Then again, who the hell am I? Satan?

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'Love me or hate me, but spare me your indifference.' -- Libbie Fudim