Leader: President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi
Population: 28.9 million (a few thousand Christians)
Main Religion: Islam
Government: Islamic Republic
World Watch List Rank: 8
Christians have become doubly vulnerable during the current conflict which has sparked the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Leaving Islam is forbidden in Yemen, and Muslims who decide to follow Jesus could face the death penalty.
These believers must keep their faith completely secret. The war has allowed Islamic extremist groups to expand their operations in certain areas, leading to Christians being abducted and killed. Civil war has led to a humanitarian crisis, and Christians miss out when emergency aid is distributed, as it is mostly distributed through Islamic organisations and local mosques, who allegedly discriminate against those who are not considered to be pious Muslims.
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.”
Open Doors supports the body of Christ on the Arabian Peninsula through organising prayer, distributing Scripture resources and training believers and pastors.
We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.