Tunis (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Slimani Brahim, a 23 year-old Tunisian man, doused himself with petrol and set himself alight in front of the town hall in Sidi Bouzid, the city where the Arab Spring broke out in 2010, after another man, Mohamed Bouazizi, set himself on fire, triggering the protests that led to the downfall of then President Ben Ali. A friend said today that he was unemployed and lived in extreme poverty.
"Two years after the start of the 'Jasmine Revolution', we are still in a very difficult social and economic situation," said Fr Jawad Alamat, head of the Pontifical Mission of the Catholic Church in Tunisia. "We must not forget the cry from which the protest started."
The number of people committing suicide or trying to take their own lives has multiplied since Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire on 17 December 2010.
In March, 27-year-old Adel Khadri, a cigarettes street vendor, took his own life in the same way in Tunis.
At present, Slimani Brahim is in Sidi Bouzid hospital with third-degree burns over three-quarters of his body.
"We are still in a climate of great uncertainty and political instability," Fr Alamat explained. "We must raise awareness among all political actors. What happened should be a strong message for everyone, for Christians as well as Muslims ".
After the initial enthusiasm that followed Ben Ali's fall, the country has slid back to dissatisfaction and despair.
Between 2010 and 2011, economic growth dropped from 4.5 per cent to 0.2 per cent, crawling its way up only in the last year.
Unemployment stands at 18 per cent, with youth unemployment at more than 30 per cent. Overall, a fifth of the population lives below the poverty line.
The victory by the Islamist Ennahda party in the 2011 election and the alliance between Salafists and moderate groups have put the issue of Islamism front and centre in what has been the most secular-oriented Muslim nation in North Africa.
The confrontation between Tunisia's secular and Islamist groups reached a climax on 7 February, when Chokri Belaid, leader of a pro-democracy opposition party, was murdered in front of his home.
Although no group has claimed responsibility for the murder, it is assumed that Islamist extremists were responsible.
In the past few months, Muslim radicals have also tried to impose themselves in many areas of public life.