Yemen’s tiny Christian minority share in the acute suffering caused by the world’s worst humanitarian disaster. Additionally, being converts from Islam, they suffer persecution from the Muslim majority.
The civil war in Yemen, involving Iran-backed Houthi rebel forces, intensified in 2015 when a Saudi Arabian-led coalition intervened on behalf of the former government. In April 2022 the opposing sides agreed to a truce, but by the end of 2022 the peace was already beginning to break down while efforts to extend the truce had faltered.
The conflict has led to the collapse of infrastructure and services such as water supply, healthcare and education. It is estimated that 24.1 million people – around 80% of Yemen’s population – are in need of humanitarian assistance. An estimated 19 million people were thought to be experiencing “acute food insecurity” at the beginning of 2023. Many children are among those who have starved to death.
Islam is the state religion, and sharia (Islamic law) the source of all legislation. Proselytising Muslims is illegal, and conversion from Islam punishable by death, although there are no known modern examples of this. Converts are also in danger from their families and communities. Christians cannot be buried in the capital, Sanaa, unless they accept a Muslim name.
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.
Christianity reached Yemen in 354 AD, when the country’s pagan king converted after hearing the Gospel from the Roman ambassador. Yemeni Christians suffered severe persecution, from Jews and Muslims. The Islamic Caliph Umar (634-644 AD) expelled all Jews and Christians from the Arabian peninsula.
Intercede for Yemeni Christians who share in the sufferings of their neighbours and endure additional hardships for their faith. Pray for progress in bringing the civil war and humanitarian crisis to an end. Ask the Lord to help His children to endure.