The civil war which has raged in Yemen since 2010 dominates all aspects of life in this state. The northern based Shia Houthi tribe are backed by Iran, and the southern tribes which are Sunni are backed by Saudi Arabia. The casualties have been horrific, leaving 150,000 dead, four million displaced, and over 20 million in need of aid.
However, the church has grown in this situation, becoming one of the most effective distribution networks of aid, even though the persecuted Christians are entirely from a Muslim background. “Many have turned to Christ in the utter exhaustion of the chaos,” said one leader. Yemeni law mandates the death penalty for apostasy however, and so the Christian community remains very low profile. Some Christian leaders have been murdered in recent years, and another was recently subject to torture when hung for seven hours a day for a week, though he did not die.
Yet the country is surprisingly open, and MBB communities run satellite channels to bring encouragement to people and explain the claims of Christ. Yet they are subject to constant slander and pressure. One Christian had to live in a garbage slum, and Al Jazeera, the satellite television network, produced a profile saying, “See, Muslim Background Believers always end up eating garbage.”
President Rashad al-Alimi
“Every week a Christian leader is “outed” as an enemy of the state. The subtext is, ‘if you meet them, kill them.’”
A BELIEVER IN YEMEN
History of Christianity
Christianity came early to this region but was wiped out by Islamic invasions. During the period of British rule churches were built, but these have all closed now. Extreme Salafist Islam has held sway in the country for some decades, and with a ruinous civil war still going on since 2010, there has been no chance for traditional Christianity to gain a foothold.
But there is a sizable community of converts from Islam, in fact maybe even larger than in the rest of the Gulf. They are reckoned to number between 2000 and 4000 and are well known for their work in relief and education. Out of Yemen’s nearly 33 million population, roughly 22 million are hungry. Christianity in action is proving a powerful form of outreach. But Christians must keep a low profile.