Last month in Yemen, a truce came into effect between the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels and the Yemeni government, which means that emergency supplies can be shipped into the region by aid organisations.
However, Yemeni Christians, who are mainly converts from Islam, may not benefit from it. “Christians with a Muslim background seeking emergency supplies are vulnerable to discrimination and mistreatment, if their faith is known,” says Henriette Katz, an Open Doors analyst for the region. “Their names can be removed from distribution lists, especially if help is being given out through local mosques where it can be checked whether someone is a good Muslim or not, based on mosque attendance.”
At least 95% of Yemeni Christians are converts from Islam. The Constitution declares that Islam is the state religion and Sharia is the source of all legislation. Christian evangelism is illegal, and Muslims are forbidden to convert to any other religion. Yemenis who leave Islam may face the death penalty.
The population of Yemen is over 99% Islamic, and most local NGO employees are Muslim. International NGOs also depend on Muslim workers – often tribal leaders – for the distribution of emergency relief supplies. The way emergency aid is distributed poses multiple challenges for Yemeni Christians.
The distribution of the humanitarian aid is often limited to larger cities, which has caused big numbers of people to move to those cities, many living on the streets. Those remaining in smaller towns and villages are particularly vulnerable to the ongoing humanitarian crisis.
“Many Yemenis have reacted to the truce with caution,” says Dr David Landrum, Director of Advocacy for Open Doors UK and Ireland. “The situation is still very uncertain, and people hope that the ceasefire lasts long enough for sufficient quantities of much-needed aid to reach the ailing Yemeni population.”
The Yemeni Civil War began in 2014, when the Houthis, a Shia Muslim minority frustrated by the policies of President Abdrabbuh Hadi’s regime, aligned themselves with the military and took control of the capital, Sana’a.
It has so far resulted in nearly 100,000 deaths, 250,000 displaced people and almost 80% of the population in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.
The truce has made it possible for Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, who has served as president since 2012, to officially hand over his duties to an eight-member presidential council. Rashad al-Alimi, who formerly served as deputy prime minister and now chairs the new council, has promised to work to end the war, prioritise economic stability and alleviate the humanitarian crisis.
Please continue to hold our brothers and sisters in Yemen in your prayers, ‘so that in all things at all times, having all that [they] need, [they] will abound in every good work’. (2 Corinthians 9:8)