|World Watch List Rank||8|
|World Watch List Score||85/100|
|Leader||Prime Minister Maeen Abd al-Malik Saeed|
|Population||29.6 million I A few thousand|
|WWL Rank in 2019||8|
|Persecution Level||Extreme Persecution|
Due to the civil war that began in 2015, there are critical shortages of food and water. At least 14 million people are at risk of starvation in Yemen. In this environment, persecution is intense and Islamic extremism has flourished. An estimated 85,000 children have died of malnutrition.
Yemen is an Islamic and clan-based society. Converting to Christianity is seen as betraying one’s clan and new believers are often disowned or killed. If the convert is a woman, the clan may force her into a marriage and pressure her to deny her faith.
While there are a few thousand Christians in Yemen, most of these are migrants from other nations. It is estimated that there are just a few hundred indigenous believers in Yemen, and their faith must be kept secret. Islam is the state religion and Sharia is the basis of the law. Evangelism is prohibited, and Yemenis who leave Islam face the death penalty.
Like all other Yemenis, Christians are suffering from the world’s worst humanitarian crisis which is currently taking place in the country. Yemeni Christians continue to be harassed in an unprecedented way and are moving from one war area to another, in search for some safety amidst continual air strikes and the lack of food and water. In this context, their faith makes them additionally vulnerable as emergency relief is mostly distributed through Islamic organizations and local mosques, which are allegedly discriminating against all who are not considered to be pious Muslims. This is a serious threat to the survival of Christians and other non-Muslims. Moreover, government officials continue their efforts to intimidate Christians even amidst the chaotic war situation.
The Church in Yemen is composed mostly of communities of Yemeni Christians with a Muslim background. Migrant Christians, particularly from Africa and also from Asia, remain in the country though most have left due to the devastating war. Migrant Christians face harassment and discrimination from society at community and national level, and even outspoken violence from radical Islamic movements. Christians with a Muslim background face an even higher degree of persecution and effectively need to live their faith in secret. They face persecution from authorities (including detention and interrogation), family, and radical Islamic groups who threaten apostates with death if they do not re-convert. The convert community is reportedly growing despite the insecurity of war.
There has been political turmoil and sporadic violence in Yemen since the former president was ousted in 2012, and in the resulting power vacuum many groups are fighting to gain control, including militant Islamist groups such as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the self-proclaimed Islamic State. These groups threaten those who leave Islam with death if they do not reconvert. Despite violence and opposition from every side and the small number of believers, one of our contacts has told us: "This time of upheaval and war can be used by the Holy Spirit to strengthen indigenous believers in Yemen and bring growth, in a way like also the first apostles were inspired by God... We know God is still at work, so please pray for fruit on the work done, that the Kingdom of God will be furthered and that lasting peace may come to the country."
Open Doors supports the church in Yemen by raising prayer and awareness.