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'Christians Are Seen as Enemies': Houthi Attacks Create More Suffering for Yemeni Christians

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Recent events in the Middle East are causing additional hardship and suffering for Christians in Yemen. 

For years, the tiny group of believers there have withstood intense persecution from militant Muslims and their government. Now, the attacks on ships and other actions of Houthi rebels are making matters worse.

The Houthi movement began about thirty years ago as an insurgency against the Sunni Muslim government. Armed by Iran, the Shia Muslim militia is crucial to Tehran's strategy to dominate the Middle East and control shipping lanes by restricting access to the Red Sea.

READ  Houthi Strike Brings Death at Sea

During recent testimony before Congress, former CIA intelligence analyst and Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute Dr. Kenneth Pollack said the Houthis share Iran's goal of destroying Israel and driving the United States and its allies out of the Middle East.

"The Houthis have proven themselves to be belligerent, aggressive, and convinced that violence is the best way to get what they want," Pollack insisted. "They are forces of oppression inside Yemen and forces of aggression beyond it."

Yemen's small but growing community of Christians is among those targeted by the Houthis.

"The Christians in this area are folks that were formerly Muslim –Muslim background believers that have converted to Christianity. Christians are obviously a despised, minority," explained Open Doors U.S. CEO Ryan Brown.

Brown's group lists Yemen as the world's fifth worst persecutor of Christians on its 2024 World Watch list. 

He said years of war had left the people largely dependent upon outside aid. So, when shipping lanes are disrupted, food and other necessities are slow to reach Middle Eastern ports, driving up costs, and Christians – those refusing to wage jihad or engage in Islamic practices are marginalized.

"Christians are often last in line as it relates to being able to receive the care and attention there as war and as these things continue to escalate. That has a ripple effect and economic ripple effect. It can disrupt supply chains, and so, while Christians were already last line, that line becomes even further elongated," explained Brown. "And so Christians are very much impacted by what's going on currently."

Once they leave Islam and are baptized, Yemeni Christians are considered apostates by Muslims. So, they keep their new faith secret to avoid severe persecution and possibly death at the hands of their clan or family members.

And if they are not killed for their faith, they are often blamed for their connections to the West. 

"They become easy targets," said Brown. "You know, there is Al-Qaeda presence in the South, Houthi presence in the North, and Christians are seen as enemies on all fronts there."

Brown said although many Yemenis are frightened, they are also curious and asking questions about faith. Followers of Jesus respond with the Word of God.

He advises the body of Christ to pray for their Yemeni brothers and sisters in Christ, "That even in the midst of this conflict, that they would see peace and they would see security, but they would recognize that in the midst of this conflict, God is doing incredible things, that his purposes are advancing, and the church is advancing there."

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About The Author

Gary Lane

Mr. Lane currently serves as International News Director and Senior International Correspondent for CBN News. He has traveled to more than 120 countries—many of them restricted nations or areas hostile to Christianity and other minority faiths where he has interviewed persecution victims and has provided video reports and analysis for CBN News. Also, he has provided written stories and has served as a consultant for the Voice of the Martyrs. Gary joined The Christian Broadcasting Network in 1984 as the first full-time Middle East Correspondent for CBN News. Based in Jerusalem, Gary produced