Yemen (MNN) – Desperate to stop the bloody conflict tearing Yemen apart, Saudi Arabia brokered a deal this week between the government and southern separatists.
According to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), the war has cost over 100,000 lives in the five years since it began. It began with the Houthi rebel takeover of the northern and central parts of the country. Their advance drove the government out of the capital city, Sana’a.
Open Doors USA’s president and CEO, Dr. David Curry says there is nothing simple about this conflict. “The backers behind the civil war are almost as important as what’s happening in Yemen itself.”
There’s a Shia and Sunni tug of war within Yemen—the two main branches of Islam separated by centuries of hostility. “Saudi Arabia has an interest in what happens there. It’s directly on its southern border. Iran has an interest in the Shia groups having some strength, and it’s just created a massive humanitarian crisis.”
In other words, Iran, which follows Shia Islam, backs the Houthi rebels. Saudi Arabia, which is Sunni, supports the government. Within those main groups are splinter groups vying for control. This week’s developments are worth noting, Curry says. “We’re looking at this agreement now, which is essentially a brokered deal with Saudi Arabia in the midst of the discussions to share power, try to put some system in place where they’re not going to keep battling over what ruins are left in Yemen.”
Caught in the middle
Meanwhile, Christians find themselves pincered between the warring groups. They have been under tremendous pressure for a long time, he says. The chaos brought on by war led to even more persecution. “I think stability right now would benefit everybody in the region, including Christians. This ability, if they can pull it off to share power, may bring some calm. I think it would benefit the Christian communities there.”
At present, Christian communities practice underground. Even private worship is risky in some areas. Family and societal pressure create additional pressure on converts to Christianity from Islam. He says, “There are leaders there that can be salt and light in this situation, or they can show the love of Jesus, bring kindness, bring some civility to a country that’s been torn apart by incivility for so long. ”
Building toward hope
Open Doors supports persecuted believers wherever they are. In tricky situations like the one in Yemen, he declined to share specifics. However, “There are projects available for pastors, churches, individuals who want to support the Church in Yemen but in a more practical way.” One of those avenues is through prayer. The best way to pray begins by getting informed.
Curry suggests looking at a map to get familiar with the terrain of Yemen. “There’s a mountain range that runs from Sa’ada, a city, down to Taez. These are highly populated areas. I think if you wanted to pray over those cities, that God would touch that place. That’s the heartbeat of the country, along that mountain range. That’s where the change needs to be. That’s where we need the greatest amount of peace.”
Pray over territory, too. “Territory matters in the Bible. It seems to be indicative of what God is doing. So let’s pray for territory. Let’s pray that God brings peace to the cities along that mountain range and to those port cities.”
Headline photo courtesy Open Doors USA