How many Christians are there in Yemen?
From a population of 31.8 million in Yemen, there is only a small number of Christians in the country. It’s hard to know the exact number, given the secrecy they have to live under.
How are Christians persecuted in Yemen?
Following Jesus in Yemen continues to be extremely dangerous. As conversion from Islam is forbidden by Islamic and state law, Christians must keep their faith secret, or risk severe repercussions from their families, the authorities or radical Islamic groups. This can include forced divorce, loss of custody of children, arrest, interrogation and even ‘honour’ killings. Women who convert to Christianity are more likely to face pressure in their private lives, while men are at greater risk of persecution in the public sphere. Pastors and church leaders are in particular danger of imprisonment and torture.
The humanitarian crisis caused by Yemen's ten-year civil war has also exacerbated the pressure on believers. While some relief aid is available, this is mostly distributed through local Muslim groups and mosques, which are alleged to be discriminating against anyone not considered a devout Muslim.
“If we sit at home and do nothing, we would be safe. But what kind of Christians would we be if weren’t risking our life for others to know Life?” saleh, a Yemeni christian who has started a house church network in the country
What’s life like for Christians in Yemen?
Conversion from Islam is strictly forbidden in Yemen, and even comes with the death penalty – so when Saleh* chose to follow Jesus, you might have thought he’d keep his new faith secret. Instead, he decided to evangelise outside his local mosque. “If we sit at home and do nothing, we would be safe,” he says. “But what kind of a Christians would we be if weren’t risking our life for others to know Life?”
During his ministry, he has been arrested and harassed by the authorities. Close friends have been locked in prison. He has received death threats, and had his name and contact information shared with those who wish him harm. But he continues to follow Jesus despite the enormous cost.
“In those tough moments, I would receive a call from someone and they would pray for me, or I would receive text messages from brothers and sisters from the global church, encouraging me that they were praying with us and for us. The church in Yemen is living in very harsh conditions but is growing nonetheless!”
Saleh lives outside Yemen but still travels back to meet and disciple believers – currently serving 70 Christian families in Yemen. Open Doors local partners are enabling Saleh to give food packages and medical aid, train leaders and provide trauma care and discipleship.
“We are grateful for your support,” he says to Open Doors supporters. “Without these resources we won't be able to grow and to serve the church in Yemen. Your prayers are important and uplifting to us, giving us strength and encouragement to keep going.”
*Name changed for security reasons
Is it getting easier to be a Christian in Yemen?
Although Yemen has dropped two places on the World Watch List, this is due to persecution increasing in Libya and Eritrea. The situation for Christians in Yemen is unchanged. Following Jesus continues to be extremely dangerous.
How can I help Christians in Yemen?
Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters in Yemen. Your prayers make an enormous difference to those following Jesus no matter the cost.
Open Doors partners support the body of Christ in Yemen by raising prayer, distributing relief aid, training believers and pastors, and offering shelter, protection and livelihood support to persecuted believers and their relatives.
Lord Jesus, thank You for the courageous faith of our sisters and brothers in Yemen. Strengthen and protect them from evil, meet their every need, and provide more opportunities for believers to gather and learn about You. Give Christians discernment and courage as they follow You despite such the dangers, and may their transformed lives capture the hearts of those around them and draw them to You. Bring peace to this troubled nation and may Your people one day be free to worship You. Amen