My view of life from the cheap seats… Art Chartier
Persecuted Church: Please pray for Christians in Yemen (World Watch List #9)
The Yemeni constitution declares that Islam is the state religion and Sharia is the source of all legislation. Conversion is forbidden for Muslims and Muslim-background believers face persecution from authorities, family and extremist groups who threaten ‘apostates’ with death if they do not revert.
There is some religious freedom for foreigners here and there are a few official churches for several thousand Christian expats and refugees in Aden, but in the north, no church buildings are allowed. The country is very unstable and large numbers of expats have left the country. Evangelism is prohibited and conversion is forbidden. Yemenis who leave Islam may face the death penalty. The few hundred Christians from a Muslim background face persecution from authorities and family, and extremist groups use this threat to pressure them to recant. (Open Doors)
Background: Yemen, situated on the Arabian Peninsula, consists mostly of desert. The country’s main source of income comes from its petroleum industry. However, poverty is a big problem in Yemen as one in every three Yemenis is unemployed.
On March 18, 2012 an American language teacher, Joel, was shot dead by gunmen in Yemen’s second largest city, Taiz. Joel was driving to work on a Sunday morning when he was fired on by gunmen on a motorbike. The al-Qaeda-linked militant group, Ansar al-Sharia, said it carried out the attack, “in response to a Western campaign to preach Christianity among Muslims.”*
The number of Muslim background believers is estimated to be between 500 and 1 000. They are not allowed to have their own gatherings and so they meet in secret locations.
Yearly, about five to six Christian converts are imprisoned for a duration varying from a few days, up to half a year. Often, these Christians are not officially charged making it very hard to prove that they are being detained due to their Christian faith.
The government used excessive force to crack down on protestors after 10 months of mass protest caused by high unemployment levels and government corruption. In February 2012, elections were held and the Acting President and only candidate Mansour Hadi was sworn-in amid a climate of violence. The country is divided between pro- and anti-Saleh forces, the south is claiming independence. There is a strong tribal system and small al-Qaeda-linked groups struggling for power.