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Christians caught between the fronts in Yemen

The conflict has killed more than 700 and caused 121,000 to flee their homes. 

SOURCES Idea Spektrum, Agencies TRANSLATOR Nicky Seadon SANAA 15 APRIL 2015 10:33 h GMT+1
refugees in Yemen Refugees in Yemen. / AFP

The tiny Christian minority in Yemen has to suffer in the midst of battles similar to civil war, as does the Muslim population.

In addition, they are caught between the fronts, on the one side that of the Shiite Houthi rebels, supported by Iran, and, on the other, that of the military alliance led by Saudi Arabia, which is backing the allies of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi with air strikes.

Since mid-March at least 735 people have been killed in the conflict and around 2,700 injured. About 121,000 have fled their homes, according to new United Nations informations made public yesterday.

Aid organisations are warning of a humanitarian disaster. Most of the 25.4 million inhabitants of Yemen are Muslims: of these at least 30 per cent are Shiites and the rest Sunnis.

The number of mostly foreign Christians is estimated by statisticians of religion to be just under 20,000. Islam is the state religion; evangelism amongst Muslims is forbidden. Muslims who nonetheless become Christians must live out their faith in secret.



Christians are by and large at the mercy of the conflicts between Shiites and Sunnis. They are seen as outsiders. Both sides respond to them with distrust, explains the spokesman for Voice of the Martyrs in the USA, Todd Nettleton (Bartlesville, Oklahoma), as reported by German news agency Idea.

Converts are seen as ‘apostates’ from Islam who, according to the religious law, Sharia, are threatened by severe penalties, going as far as execution. On the other hand, according to Nettleton, the internal conflicts within Islam are causing many moderate Muslims to view their religion with scepticism. As a consequence they are becoming more receptive to the Christian message.

Voice of the Martyrs supports the Christians with Bibles and other literature, but can only carry this out in secret. Similar comments were made by staff of the mission organisation of the Southern Baptists in the USA, who for security reasons do not wish to be named.

The unrest is causing many Yemenis to question what really provides stability in their lives. As a result, many have become spiritually more open, said one member of staff of the information service Mission Network News (Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA).            



In Yemen, in the past, Christian development workers have occasionally been abducted or killed. So it was that in 2009 the Hentschel family from Saxony was kidnapped along with four other Christians in the North Yemeni province of Saada, where the Hentschels worked in a government hospital.

Three of the abductees – two German nurses and a South Korean teacher – were found shot dead. In 2010 the daughters of Johannes and Sabine Hentschel, Lydia (10) and Anna (8), were able to return to their home country; however, their parents and the son Simon remained missing without trace. Last year the Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed the next of kin that the missing persons were dead.

In 2012 the US-American Christian Joel Shrum was shot dead in Taiz in broad daylight. Islamic terrorists admitted responsibility for the attack. A few days previously a female Swiss language teacher had been abducted in the port town of Hobeida.




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