Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

What’s Happening to Yemen’s Forgotten Christians

February 1, 2013 1:52 am 0 comments

Arab Christians in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel the Gaza strip and Egypt. Photo: Yerevanci.

When one thinks of Yemen—the impoverished Arab country that begat Osama bin Laden and is cushioned between Saudi Arabia and Somalia, two of the absolute most radical Muslim nations—one seldom thinks of Christians, primarily because they are practically nonexistent in such an inhospitable environment. In fact, most tallies suggest that Yemen’s entire non-Muslim population is less than one percent.

However, a new Arabic report discusses the existence of Christians in Yemen, and their plight—a plight that should be familiar by now, wherever Christian minorities live under Muslim majorities.

Unofficial statistics suggest that there are some 2,500 indigenous Christians in the nation, practicing their faith underground, even as hostile tribes surround them. According to human rights activist, Abdul Razzaq al-Azazi, “Christians in Yemen cannot practice their religion nor can they go to church freely. Society would work on having them enter Islam.”

He added that, as in most Muslim countries, “the government does not permit the establishment of buildings or worship places without prior permission,” pointing out that Roman Catholic officials, for example, are currently awaiting a decision from the government on whether they will be allowed to construct a building and be officially recognized by the government in Sana.

A convert to Christianity—an apostate from Islam whose life is forfeit and who naturally prefers to remain anonymous, going by the pseudonym, “Ibn Yemen” (Son of Yemen)—expressed his fear of increased pressure on Christians, especially since the “Islamists now represent the dominant political faction, following the Arab Spring and the protests that brought the fall of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.” He added that even though the old regime “was not Islamist, Christians were still subjected to persecution and scrutiny by the police apparatus under that regime. Authorities did not allow us to practice our religion openly or allow us to build a private church, all because of Islam’s apostasy law. What do you think it will be like now that the Islamists are in power?”

Accordingly, and as another Christian interviewed in Yemen indicated, Christians pray underground in the members’ houses on a rotational basis—not unlike the days of Roman persecution of Christians, when the latter worshipped in underground catacombs. Along with Yemen’s indigenous Christians, there are also some 15,000-25,000 non-native Christians living in Yemen, mostly refugees from Somalia, Eritrea, and Ethiopia, where the persecution of Christians is often even worse than in Yemen, especially Somalia, where Al-Shabaab (“the Youth”) behead Muslim apostates to Christianity on a regular basis. Such Christian refugees from Africa often change their names to Muslim names to avoid harassment in Yemeni society.

Some Christian organizations and institutions do exist, mostly foreign ones, including the American Baptist Mission, which runs Jibla Hospital and the Church which provides services to the poor, orphans, and imprisoned women. These work primarily to serve the community, not facilitate Christian worship. Likewise, another study confirmed the previous existence of five churches in the southern city of Aden, three of which were Roman Catholic, one Anglican, and the fifth of unidentified affiliation: three of those five churches which were built during the British occupation of southern Yemen, were neglected and left to crumble; the fourth became the property of the government; and the fifth was turned into a health facility.

The story of Yemen’s Christians is a microcosm of the story of Islam’s Christians, as it wholly conforms to the current pattern of oppression for Christians under Islam: things were better for Christians—for religious freedom in general—in earlier eras under Western influence; as the Muslim world, which for a while was Western-looking, continues returning to Islam, the things of Islam, its “way,” or “Sharia”—in this case, hostility to non-Muslim worship and apostates—returns; and, as the “Arab Spring” has done elsewhere, Islamists now dominate Yemeni politics, bringing to mind the apostate Ibn Yemen’s apt question: “What do you think it will be like now [for Christians] that the Islamists are in power?”

This article by Raymond Ibrahim was originally published by the Gatestone Institute.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Middle East Larry King Asks Saudi Arabian Fan If Taking Pictures With Jews Is Permitted

    Larry King Asks Saudi Arabian Fan If Taking Pictures With Jews Is Permitted

    Jewish former CNN host Larry King asked a Saudi Arabian fan if taking pictures with Jews is allowed in his country, before agreeing to pose for a photo with the man, The New York Times reported on Wednesday. The world-famous interviewer was leaving the Ritz Carlton hotel in Washington, D.C. with a New York Times reporter when a “dark-skinned man” approached and asked to take a picture with him, according to the publication. Whereupon, King asked the fan where he was from. When the man said Saudi […]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports Britain’s Lord Sugar Says Synagogues Will Be Empty With Yom Kippur Matchup of Jewish-Supported Soccer Teams

    Britain’s Lord Sugar Says Synagogues Will Be Empty With Yom Kippur Matchup of Jewish-Supported Soccer Teams

    British-Jewish business tycoon Lord Alan Sugar joked on Wednesday that London synagogues will likely be empty during Yom Kippur with congregants fleeing to watch the match-up of two leading English soccer teams known for having hordes of Jewish fans. “Spurs V Arsenal cup game drawn on most important Jewish festival,” Lord Sugar pointed out on Twitter. “Both teams have loads of Jewish fans. Conclusion Synagogues will be empty.” North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal FC will go head-to-head in the Capital One Cup third-round […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Jewish Men Pass Jimmy Kimmel Social Experiment, Rescuing ‘Spongebob’ in Distress (VIDEO)

    Jewish Men Pass Jimmy Kimmel Social Experiment, Rescuing ‘Spongebob’ in Distress (VIDEO)

    Two Jewish men were the only unwitting participants in a social experiment conducted by Jimmy Kimmel, for his popular TV show. As part of a candid-camera-like sketch featured Monday night on Jimmy Kimmel Live, the host devised different street scenes to observe human behavior — in particular, to see how long it would take people walking down California’s bustling Hollywood Boulevard to notice and interact with others in distress. One scene involved a man in a Spongebob Squarepants costume who had “fallen down” on the sidewalk and needed help […]

    Read more →
  • Education US & Canada International Jewish Organization Blasts Israeli-Born Star Natalie Portman for Comments on Holocaust Education

    International Jewish Organization Blasts Israeli-Born Star Natalie Portman for Comments on Holocaust Education

    A major Jewish organization rebuked actress Natalie Portman on Monday for saying in a recent interview that Jews put too much emphasis on teaching about the Holocaust relative to other genocides. The Israeli-born movie star told the U.K.’s Independent that the Jewish community needs to examine how much focus it puts on Holocaust education over other issues. She said she was shocked when she learned that a genocide was taking place in Rwanda while she was in school learning only about the horrors of the […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israel Book Draws Parallels Between Holocaust and Palestinian Nakba, Sparks Outrage

    Book Draws Parallels Between Holocaust and Palestinian Nakba, Sparks Outrage

    JNS.org – A new book that draws parallels between the Holocaust and the Palestinian Nakba (the Arabic term for the displacement of Palestinian refugees during Israel’s War of Independence) has sparked outrage ahead of an official book launch, to be hosted by the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute on Sept. 7. The Zionist organization Im Tirtzu wrote a letter to the institute demanding that it cancel an event it planned in honor of the book’s authors, under the title The Holocaust and […]

    Read more →
  • Education US & Canada Natalie Portman Says Holocaust Education Shouldn’t be Used for ‘Fearmongering’

    Natalie Portman Says Holocaust Education Shouldn’t be Used for ‘Fearmongering’

    Famed actress Natalie Portman warned on Friday against the use of Holocaust education to evoke fear and paranoia. In an interview with the U.K. Independent she added that the trauma should make Jews more empathetic to others who have also experienced hatred. “Sometimes it can be subverted to fearmongering and like ‘Another Holocaust is going to happen,’” the Israeli-American star said. “We need to, of course, be aware that hatred exists, antisemitism exists against all sorts of people, not in the same way. I […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Commentary A Righteous Gentile Navigates the Sharkpool of Washington’s Middle East Correspondents (REVIEW)

    A Righteous Gentile Navigates the Sharkpool of Washington’s Middle East Correspondents (REVIEW)

    The Tribalist, by Louis Marano, is ostensibly a work of fiction but at its core a kind of love song by a gentile journalist for the State of Israel, and especially its secular Zionist core. (Because of the relentless attacks by left-wing polemicists on Israel’s allegedly “messianic” fringe, it’s often forgotten that most of Israel’s founders and all its leaders have been secular Zionists.) The author, the product of an Italian-American family in Buffalo, served two tours of duty in […]

    Read more →
  • Food Jewish Identity Rugelach Roundtable: Does Beloved Pastry Need Dairy to Taste Good?

    Rugelach Roundtable: Does Beloved Pastry Need Dairy to Taste Good?

    JNS.org – Rugelach (singular: rugala) are a beloved traditional Jewish pastry, with a quirky history to boot, but they often present a kosher conundrum. Though parve rugelach are often a preferred dessert after a meat meal for those observing kosher laws (which stipulate a waiting period between eating meat and dairy), some of today’s most popular rugelach are known for their dairy fillings. Pastry chef Paula Shoyer—author of the books “The Kosher Baker: Over 160 Dairy-free Recipes from Traditional to Trendy” and […]

    Read more →