Yemen (MNN) — “It’s a humanitarian disaster,” says Isaac Six of Open Doors.
He’s talking about Yemen, where civil war has reigned for years, leading to widespread terrorism and starvation. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) recently released a country update for Yemen, detailing religious freedom violations in the country.
The Houthis, a militant group representing Shia Muslims in the region, have been conquering territory and harassing Sunni Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, and other religious groups.
Six says, “The Christian population, which was small a few years ago, probably about 40,000 or so, has dwindled to maybe just a few thousand now. That’s after concerted attacks on churches, burned down and entered by gunmen. And [in many] Christian businesses and care facilities, Christians were shot and killed by gunmen, deliberately targeted for their faith. Yemen is really one of the most difficult places in the world right now.”
Yemen doesn’t make the daily news very often, Six says, but the country needs prayer. “We really need to pray for a peaceful end to the conflict there. [Hopefully] that brings in a government that will stop a lot of the violence targeting people because of their faith.”
The benefits of religious freedom
Six says many Christians in Yemen have a Muslim background, making them especially vulnerable to mistreatment. But their persecution doesn’t just hurt them, it hurts the whole country. “Religious freedom is so integral to success and just the growth of civil society. I look at it as important for other countries to see . . . the terrible side effects that come from persecuting people based off of their faith.”
But countries that do allow religious freedom see great benefits, Six says. “It’s important to show that what religious freedom allows in our country and has allowed is just the growth of incredibly diverse and beautiful communities that contribute to the economy to all sorts of things.”
Pray that God would transform the country into a place of love and freedom. Six points to what has happened in Sudan recently to give hope that the same could happen in Yemen.
In the meantime, be praying that Christians in Yemen would be kept safe from religious violence. And pray that many would be drawn to Christ by their faithful witness in such a difficult country.
The header image shows a scene from Yemen. Photo courtesy of PrayerCast.