Yemen has been a unified state only since 1990. Before that, North Yemen (on the Red Sea) was 60 percent Shi'ite and ruled by a conservative Shi'ite Imamate, while South Yemen (on the Gulf of Aden) was 99 percent Sunni and Communist. In 1962, Ali Abdallah Saleh, a northern socialist and nominal Sunni, seized power in North Yemen in a military coup. He was elected president of North Yemen in 1978 and retains power as president of the unitary Republic of Yemen, which today is on the verge of collapse. The Shi'ites, a 30 percent minority in the unitary state, are marginalised by the Sunnis, while the oil- rich south is marginalised by the ruling north. The Shi'ites want to restore the Imamate, while the south wants to secede. Since at least 2005, President Saleh has been using al Qaeda jihadists (fundamentalist Sunnis) in his fight against the al Houthi rebels (Shi'ites) in the north and more secular (formerly Soviet-backed Communist) secessionists in the south. The conflict also has regional dimensions: Saudi Arabia is fighting advancing Iran-backed al Houthi Shi'ite rebels, while Somalis have joined the Sunnis and Lebanese Hezballah have joined the Shi'ites.
Underneath this crumbling structure are vulnerable Jewish and Christian minorities amidst a population of 24 million. In 1949-50 Israel rescued 45,000 of Yemen's Jews from genocide through Operation Magic Carpet. A further 32,000 Jews have left Yemen since then and now less than 400 remain. As sectarian conflict escalated in the north in January 2007, the Shi'ite rebels forced the 45 remaining Jews in al Haid, Sa'ada, from their homes under threat of death. Most Christians in Yemen (est. 9000 in Operation World 2000) are expatriate workers or Ethiopian refugees. They are a source of light and hope for Yemen, one of the world's poorest and least evangelised nations. Participate! Intercede for the Church in Yemen.
Please pray specifically that, by His word and Holy Spirit, God:
-- will draw all Christians in Yemen into prayer and supply all their needs, increasing their faith and courage; may their lives witness to the faithfulness and supremacy of Jesus Christ.
-- will awaken many Muslims in Yemen (local Arabs and foreign jihadists) to the truth that it is Jesus Christ who is the light of God.
For the 'true light, which enlightens' has come into the world. And to all who receive him, who believe in his name, he gives the right to become children of God (See John 1:9-13).
This Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin was written for the Australian Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission (AEA RLC) by Elizabeth Kendal, an international religious liberty analyst and advocate, and a member of the AEA RLC team. All previous bulletins may be viewed here.