A port city in the Tunisian capital might seem an innocuous setting for the celebration of a Christian tradition, yet the rekindling of the procession of the Assumption speaks of a culture that defies sectarianism

About 150 people are crowded into the 19th-century Église de Saint Augustin et Saint Fidèle in the Tunis suburb of La Goulette. More are gathered outside in the summer heat, behind the iron railings lining the narrow streets of Little Sicily, the neighbourhood where the fishing town’s Italian migrants once settled and established themselves.

The crowds have come to see the first procession of the Assumption to be staged in the city since the tradition died out in the early 60s. In its heyday, the flower-decked statue of the Virgin of Trapani would be carried through the packed streets of La Goulette to the harbour where, alongside the area’s Muslim and Jewish population, priests would bless the fishing boats and their crews.

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