Yemen (MNN) — Last weekend, United States forces led their first ground raid against Al-Qaida in Yemen since 2014. It was significant because it was President Trump’s first approved military operation, and because over the past few years, the U.S. has only conducted airstrikes in Yemen.
The U.S.-led operation had been run past former President Obama, and “operational reasons” were why the mission was postponed until President Trump took office. The purpose of the ground raid was to collect valuable intelligence that would advance efforts to fight terror in Yemen, and to detain Al-Qaida collaborating tribal leaders.
Women and children were among the casualties of the operation. Central Command spokesman John Thomas gave a statement, as reported by The Chicago Tribune: “Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula has a horrifying history of hiding women and children within militant operating areas and terrorist camps, and continuously shows a callous disregard for innocent lives…. That’s what makes cases like these so especially tragic.”
Yemen is no stranger to Islamic extremism, which is why the nation is ranked highly on Open Doors’ World Watch List.
Kristin Wright with Open Doors USA explains, “It’s a particularly heartbreaking situation for Christians and other religious minorities in Yemen. Yemen is actually ranked number nine on the 2017 Open Doors World Watch List, and this is our list of the 50 countries where it is most difficult in the world to be a Christian.”
This Middle Eastern country on the tip of the Arabian Peninsula is overwhelmingly Muslim, accounting for 99.1 percent of the population. The other 0.9 percent of Yemenis are Jewish, Baha’i, Hindu, and Christian, according to the CIA World Factbook.
“As far as the Christian population in Yemen, the Christians who are left there are primarily believers who have converted from Islam to Christianity,” says Wright, “so they’re even more harshly targeted as a result of their conversion. Open Doors estimates there may only be a few thousand Christians left in Yemen today. So it’s a very dire situation, not only between the air strikes and attacks, but also with increased need for humanitarian aid, and around 2.5 million people are displaced within Yemen as well. So this is a situation where people are on the move as a result of the conflict.”
Open Doors estimates around 80 percent of the Yemeni population is in need of humanitarian aid.
“Yemen’s hunger crisis is actually among the worst in the world today, so it’s a very serious situation and that’s one of the reasons why at Open Doors we’re working to do everything we can to support persecuted Christians in this country and around the world.”
The conflict and extremist oppression does little to help the food shortage. “I think it certainly is exacerbated by the conflict in the country and by the rise of Islamic extremism within Yemen. It’s particularly difficult for Christian believers because they’re sort of, in a sense, twice ostracized. Having converted from Islam to Christianity, their lives are already at risk in a country like Yemen, and then on top of that, the crisis that is continually driven by an increasing conflict, more extremism, displacement, hunger, all of this.”
The World Watch List is an invaluable resource when trying to decipher how to pray for Yemen and other countries where persecution of Christians is harsh. And the list is even being utilized by U.S. leadership.
“At our launch release [of the 2017 World Watch List] earlier in January, we had Knox Thames, who’s the Special Adviser for Religious Minorities in the Near East and South/Central Asia from the U.S. State Department. He shared that the U.S. State Department utilizes the information on the Open Doors World Watch List to heighten their understanding of the situation facing persecuted Christians around the world. So we’re glad to see this information is getting into the right hands.”
Wright shares, “We’re also encouraging Christians to sign a petition on the Open Doors website and urge the Trump administration to really take this issue seriously and to do everything within their power to protect persecuted Christians and strengthen religious freedom around the world.”
In the meantime, please remember to pray for Yemen, it’s Christians and religious minorities who suffer persecution, and Yemeni civilians who are often put at-risk in the crosshairs of conflict.