Leader: President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi
Population: 28.1 million (a few thousand Christians)
Main Religion: Islam
Government: Islamic Republic
World Watch List Rank: 9
The power vacuum created by the civil war has allowed radical Islamist groups such as Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) to gain significant influence.
Christians have been killed and abducted by Islamic radicals, including 16 people killed in an attack on a Christian care home for the elderly. Yemen is a tribal society and leaving Islam is seen as a betrayal of the tribe – leaving Islam is punishable by death. However, it is reported that many Muslims are turning to Christ.
While there are a few thousand Christians in Yemen, most of these are migrants from other nations. It is estimated that there are just a few hundred indigenous believers in Yemen, and their faith must be kept secret. Islam is the state religion and Sharia is the basis of the law. Evangelism is prohibited, and Yemenis who leave Islam face the death penalty.
Yemen is a tribal society, however, and the national government is secondary to the tribe; the government rarely intervenes in conflicts within a tribe, even if members are being physically harmed or imprisoned. Islam is part of the identity of Yemeni tribes, and tribal leaders are likely to enforce punishments for those who wish to leave Islam: this could mean honour killings, house arrest or, for women, forced marriage.
There has been political turmoil and sporadic violence in Yemen since the former president was ousted in 2012, and in the resulting power vacuum many groups are fighting to gain control, including militant Islamist groups such as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the self-proclaimed Islamic State. These groups threaten those who leave Islam with death if they do not reconvert.
Despite violence and opposition from every side and the small number of believers, one of our contacts has told us: “This time of upheaval and war can be used by the Holy Spirit to strengthen indigenous believers in Yemen and bring growth, in a way like also the first apostles were inspired by God… We know God is still at work, so please pray for fruit on the work done, that the Kingdom of God will be furthered and that lasting peace may come to the country.”
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imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.