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Persecution in Yemen

Pray for the persecuted!

Yemen currently holds position seven on Open Door’s World Watch List. While the Yemeni Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, it also declares Islam to be the state religion and mandates that all legislation must be based in Sharia law.

Persecution of Christians in Yemen comes from the government, from family and from independent extremist groups.

Those who suffer the most are Muslims who convert to Christianity. It is against the law for Yemeni citizens to leave Islam. If the conversion of an Islamic background believer is discovered, they can be arrested and punished without trial. In fact, about five or six Christian converts are imprisoned annually, receiving sentences varying from a few days to six months. Some of these converts may even face the death penalty. Those who escape the authorities are still in danger from extremist groups who threaten ‘apostates’ with death if they do not revert to the national faith. In October 2008, Michael Kenea was murdered for his faith in Christ, in front of his home and family. Typically, no one was ever prosecuted for his death.

Expatriate Christian workers in Yemen also face severe restrictions and challenges. Last year nine expatriate Christian health workers in the Northern Sa'ada province were kidnapped by armed men. A few days later, the bodies of three of them were found mutilated. However, it is unclear whether religion has anything to do with these types of kidnappings, as they usually end by meeting demands for some community assistance, funds, or release of clan members from custody.

Christians have also been suffering, along with the rest of the population, from the recent civil unrest, particularly the tribal violence and fighting in the North. According to the Red Cross, "the dire humanitarian situation is hitting women and children especially hard".

Despite the challenges facing the Yemeni Christian population, the gospel is yet preached. Because the Government does not keep track of an individual's religious identity, and there is no law requiring religious groups to register with the state, Christians have been able to meet for weekly services in several cities. Elsewhere in the country, Christian services can be held in private homes or facilities, such as schools.

While Christians are allowed to worship at these services, they are strictly forbidden to evangelize the Muslim population. Christian materials are routinely seized in an attempt to prevent the spread of Christianity. Since 2009, literature confiscation from foreign travelers has also greatly increased.

Much prayer and work is required to reach the population of this country, where less than one percent are Christian.

Source: Open Doors USA

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