It is extremely dangerous to be a Christian in Yemen, due to the country's strict Islamic laws and the presence of militant Islamic groups.
The population is overwhelmingly Muslim and it is illegal to convert from Islam to Christianity. Yemen is strongly tribal and tribal law prohibits members of the tribe from leaving. Yemeni Christian converts are at great risk of being killed, not just ostracised or expelled, by their families, clans and tribes.
Islamic extremist groups such as al-Qaeda and so-called Islamic State threaten so-called 'apostates' with death if they do not return to Islam. In other areas, including those controlled by Houthis, converts risk imprisonment. In detention centres, Christian detainees have reportedly suffered physical and mental torture.
Most believers from a Muslim background choose to practise their faith covertly. They cannot gather together, because of the growing fear that neighbours will report them to the local authorities. Displaying Christian symbols could lead directly to imprisonment, physical abuse or even execution.
All Yemenis are affected by the humanitarian crisis caused by the ongoing civil war, but Yemeni Christians are additionally vulnerable since emergency relief is mostly distributed through local Muslims and mosques, which allegedly discriminate against all who are not considered to be devout Muslims. The influence of Islamic militants also adds to the already vulnerable position of indigenous Christians.
There is a strong al-Qaeda presence in the rural areas in the south, which makes it particularly dangerous for Christians. Converts from Islam to Christianity have also indicated that there is more pressure in the Shiite Houthi-controlled areas in the north than in areas under the control of the Sunni Hadi government.
“When I came to faith, I thought I was the only believer in Yemen. For a long time, I didn’t know any other Yemeni Christians."Mohammad
Yemen has risen two places on the World Watch List due to a slight increase in the number of reported violent incidents against Christians, such as opposition and limitations experienced by informal fellowships. Pressure on converts is at extreme levels in all spheres of life. Christians in Yemen face physical and mental abuse, sexual harassment and rape, as well as forced marriages.
Open Doors supports the body of Christ in Yemen by distributing relief aid and Christian literature, and offering shelter, protection and livelihood training to persecuted believers and their relatives.
Father God, bring stability to this country that has suffered so much conflict. Protect those believers who trust You in secret. Draw close to them and remind them of Your love. Provide for people living in poverty and give them a sufficient share of the emergency aid. Bring reconciliation to the factions in conflict and restore peace to this land. Strengthen the secret church. Amen.