Yemen (MNN/IMB) — In the last couple of weeks, Yemeni women in search of more rights have set fire to their veils in protest.
"Here we burn our makrama (veils) in front of the world to witness the bloody massacres carried out by the tyrant Saleh," read leaflets handed out by women present at a recent demonstration, according to The Associated Press.
It's a traditional Bedouin tribal cry for help from the women of a nation that has faded from headlines. But International Mission Board workers are holding out hope that these protests will be what leads these women to Christ.
IMB reports that Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has long said he would step down from his 33-year rule, but he doesn't seem to be going down without a fight. In late September, government gunfire killed dozens of demonstrators, and rockets hit a protest camp. The bloodshed hasn't slowed down in October.
And women have been right in the middle of it all, begging for democracy and freedom, says IMB. One Yemeni woman, Tawakkul Karman, was even named as a joint winner of this year's Nobel Peace Prize for her activism for women's rights.
"What do they want? Well, what do we all want? We want lives filled with joy. We want the freedom to pursue the things we enjoy, and we want to experience the kind of love found only in a family," said Beth Judson, a Christian worker who spent some time in Yemen in the past. "This is what they want as well."
The theme of their dreams, however, is starting to change with a new generation, Judson said. "More recently, I think there has been a shift taking place in what the younger generation of girls wants out of life. Many of their mothers only ever thought about getting married and having sons. Though this is still very important to many of the high school and college-age crowd, they are also starting to explore new and perhaps unconventional paths for their lives."
The average age for marrying is rising for women because they sometimes fear their husbands might keep them from going to college, she explained. "Most of the women who are protesting have at least some education and are lobbying for their own rights–a freedom that was once reserved only for men."
It's a yearning Judson prays will put them on a journey to finding freedom in Jesus Christ — a permanent freedom they can't find in expanded civil rights or career opportunities. "My desire is that these women find the joy that they are searching for," said Judson. "The joy and satisfaction they seek comes only from being set free from the chains of sin and death and being robed with the righteousness of Christ."
It is a lasting joy and not a temporary one they seek, Judson said.
"A new government, or a degree from a well-respected university, or a job will not give them what they are looking for," she said "Only a relationship with their Maker–the One who loves them and created them for fellowship with Him–can fill them with the joy they seek."
Judson asked believers to pray for God to move among these women, and for believers to boldly share their faith.