Although no official statistics exist, it is thought that 65 percent of Yemenis are Sunni Muslim and 35 percent are Shia Muslims belonging to the Zaidi order. Christians, Jews, Baha’is, and Hindus together make up less than one percent of the population. Yemen’s legal system is based on both Islamic sharia law and a secular civil code. Freedom of thought is protected by the constitution, but proselytising to Muslims is illegal, and conversion from Islam is officially a capital offence.
While Yemen’s government controlled the country, members of minority religions could worship in relative freedom. However, religious freedom has deteriorated since a rebel coalition led by Zaidi Houthis seized control of the country in 2014. Amongst other targets, Shia mosques and Christian churches have since been attacked by armed groups.
Saana, Yemen’s capital, is one of the oldest continuously-inhabited cities in the world. Yemen was ruled by the Ottomans in the 1500s and again from the mid-nineteenth century. The southern city of Aden came under British rule in 1839.
After becoming independent in 1918, North Yemen was ruled by feudal leaders until 1962, when army leaders seized control. In 1967, the last British troops left the south, which adopted a Communist-oriented government. North and South Yemen were unified as the Republic of Yemen in 1990, but civil unrest and armed conflict between the two continued with various foreign militants intervening. The security situation worsened drastically in 2014 when northern rebels seized control of Sanaa.
The ongoing civil war has put additional pressure on the Yemeni economy, which was already struggling. The impoverished country was dependent on dwindling oil revenues. Since the takeover, exports have further declined and the rebels have also appropriated government funds for their own purposes. At least 82% of the population is now in need of humanitarian assistance.
- Pray for stability in Yemen: for an end to conflict and bloodshed and for freedom for all citizens.
- Pray for investment and economic success, so that it may overcome its crippling poverty.
- Pray for greater religious freedom in Yemen and that the tiny Christian minority will be able to practise their faith in freedom and security.