Who is in control of Yemen?

By January 22, 2015
(Photo courtesy Flickr/CC/Brian Harr)

(Photo courtesy Flickr/CC/Brian Harr)

Yemen (MNN) — The Yemeni government say Shiite Houthi rebels stormed the Presidential Palace and attacked the Prime Minister’s residence yesterday in a coup.

The rebels deny that, claiming they have not removed President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi from office, although they maintained a guard over his home on Wednesday.

If they’re not seizing power, what do they want? David Curry, President and CEO of Open Doors USA, says the Houthi want equal rights. “They’ve been escalating their attacks. They seem reasonable in what they’re asking because they have been oppressed, being a minority group.”

The rebel leader went public with demands yesterday for constitutional changes that would increase Houthi influence in the management of Yemen.

Yemen is the poorest Arab country with about a tenth of the wealth belonging to neighboring Oman and Saudi Arabia. Widespread corruption, unemployment, poverty, and violence are blamed for the mismanagement. Right now, nearly half of the population lives below the poverty line.

yemen-flag The Houthi finally had enough. The trouble with their uprising is that it taps right into one of the oldest feuds in the world: Shia v. Sunni Islam.

Curry says, “There’s no doubt that the extremist Shiite group has gained some leverage. I think that through that, you could say that Iran, which is a part of this–they seem to be, at least tangentially, playing a supporting role to this group–has gained some leverage in it all.” Add a weak government in, and the balance of power could tilt explosively. “It seems to be playing out similar to Tunisia and Egypt where you have these weak governments that have been propped up for all the wrong reasons.” Curry goes on to add that, “Really, you have two extremist groups here that are battling for control of the country,” and Christians are caught in the middle of the whole thing.

Yemen is #14 on the 2015 Open Doors World Watch List, a ranking of the world’s 50 worst countries known for the persecution of Christians.

The Constitution of Yemen declares Islam as the State religion, and Sharia–the Islamic law–as the source of all legislation. The government forbids conversion from Islam and proselytizing of Muslims.

yemenmap When a Muslim becomes a Christian, he or she often faces persecution from family and the government. That there are Muslim-Background Believers at all implies that the story of Jesus is still being shared. However, many MBB remain quiet about their faith and are very cautious about expressing it at all.

Open Doors helps partners in the region. “Are there people who want to own a Bible in Yemen? Yes. Are there people who want to read a Bible? Yes. Are there people who want to believe and follow Jesus? Yes. Do they do so under tremendous pressure in secret? Yes.”

While practical support to the church is important, strategically, helping the church grow and mature is vital. Local believers need good role-models and Christians with the capacity to disciple believers and help them follow Jesus.

Another need would be strong fellowship among local believers. The risk of being betrayed or exposed by other Yemenis is a real one and cannot be overlooked. This may hinder the growth of trust and strong fellowships.

With Yemen’s unpredictable future, please keep praying. “Pray for the Yemeni Christians, that they would have Bibles, that they would come to faith, that they would be protected. Just lift them up in prayer, and then, support projects in these regions–if you possibly can–that will help the church to grow and flourish and be a place of salt and light in this community.”

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