What is it like to be a Christian in Yemen?
In January of 2011, the people of Yemen joined numerous other Arab countries and began protesting. Initially Yemenis went peacefully to the streets to protest unemployment in the country, the economic conditions and corruption. Yemen is the poorest Arab country with a GDP per capita that is about one tenth of that in neighbouring Oman and Saudi Arabia. This is not only because of lack of oil, but more so because of widespread corruption, low education levels, violence and mismanagement. Right now the Yemeni’s are facing massive unemployment. Official statistics say that one out of every three Yemenis is unemployed, especially younger citizens. Almost half of the population lives under poverty line.
The country has four official churches, three Catholic and one Anglican, for the several hundreds of expat Christians living in the country. The number of Muslim background believers has increased from an estimated 500 to 1,000 Christians.
When a Muslim becomes a Christian, he or she often faces persecution from family and the government. They are not allowed to have their own gatherings, so they meet in secret locations. Christians are on both sides of the political spectrum in Yemen, but they keep their mutual peace and unity in Christ.
The Constitution of Yemen declares Islam as the State religion, and Shari’a, the Islamic law, as the source of all legislation. The Government forbids conversion from Islam and proselytizing of Muslims. Family and the government are the main sources of oppression and persecution.