ar-torn Yemen, on the south-western corner of the Arabian Peninsula, is enduring the world’s worst humanitarian crisis as a result of a civil war involving Houthi rebel forces, which intensified in 2015 when a Saudi Arabian led coalition intervened on behalf of the former government. The United Nations warned in 2019 that more than 22 million Yemenis were in immediate need of humanitarian aid, including 15 million on the brink of starvation.
Christians are a tiny minority of the population. Most are expatriate workers, and some are refugees from Ethiopia. Yemeni Christians are converts from Islam; only God knows how many they number.
At the time of writing, Christians, like everyone else, are suffering from a desperate lack of food, water, shelter and medicines.
Islam is the state religion of Yemen, and there is a large minority of Zaidi Shia Muslims. Sharia is the source of all legislation. Proselytising Muslims is illegal, and conversion from Islam is technically punishable by death, although there are no known modern examples of this. Converts nevertheless face arrest and are in danger from their families and communities. Expatriate Christians can worship together, but some have been arrested on charges of “promoting Christianity and distributing the Bible”; others accused of evangelism have been expelled.
Christians are not permitted to be buried in the capital, Sanaa, unless they accept a Muslim name. In 2017, a Christian cemetery in Aden was desecrated at night. The damaged graves included those of Christians murdered in an attack on a Christian-run care home in 2016, in which 16 died.
Christianity was established in Yemen in 354 AD when the Roman ambassador converted the country’s pagan king. Yemeni Christians suffered severe persecution, from Jews and Muslims. The Islamic Caliph Umar (634-644 AD) decreed that all Jews and Christians should be expelled from the Arabian peninsula.
Pray for peace in Yemen and an end to the suffering endured by its people. Ask that Muslims will look with compassion on Christians, allowing them to worship freely. Pray that Christian converts from Islam will be given strength to stand firm in their faith.
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