Yemen - baptisms and war
Baptisms are still happening in Yemen despite two years of war in country where leaving Islam is punishable by death, reports Open Doors
A vicious civil war has been devastating Yemen for two years. While Yemeni society is still dominated by strict Islamic rule, some Christian pastors baptise new believers regularly.
Jamil*, a former Yemeni Muslim now a Christian pastor, shares a unique insight into the body of Christ in Yemen.
'Yemeni Christians really long for Jesus to return. We have lost so much; we reach out to the everlasting peace that He will bring one day – hopefully soon!'
Christians before the war
When the war started two years ago, many foreign Christians who had been living in Yemen were forced to leave the country. Oddly enough, in Jamil’s experience, this laid the groundwork for the current development in the church in Yemen as he explained: 'Before that most house churches were heavily dependent on foreign Christians. Local Yemeni Christians couldn’t match their theological knowledge, abilities and funds and simply didn’t need to take responsibility themselves.
'Now the foreigners are mostly gone, we actually had to take the lead ourselves. At first it seemed the house church movement would fall apart, but gradually, local Christians started taking responsibility and took up leadership positions. They may not have been highly trained, but they share the knowledge they have and support each other.'
Being a Christian in Yemen is still extremely dangerous, Jamil pointed out. 'Before the war, persecution by the government, the community and relatives was the main problem.
'Now the government control has diminished the main threats for Christians come from Al Qaeda and IS-like terrorist organisations roaming the country. Some time ago one of these groups posted the names and addresses of a group of known Christians online, effectively endangering their lives and forcing many of them to go into hiding.'
Christians also suffer from the effects of the war just like every other Yemeni: insecurity, lack of food and the danger of being caught up in fights between the warring parties.
Nevertheless, Jamil is hopeful for the future and commented: 'The church in Yemen is still young. The first generation of Christians who converted from Islam were used to fighting for their position. We are now seeing a second generation of Christians growing up – children born in Christian families. They will be the generation that helps the church to grow.
'My hope and prayer is that the third generation – their children – will keep the faith and will be accepted into society. Yes, that is my dream – that in the next decades Christians in Yemen can worship God freely. I know that people are willing to give their lives to get there.'
Yemen is number 9 on the Open Doors 2017 World Watch List, the annual ranking of countries where Christians face the most extreme persecution. Yemen is a tribal society and leaving Islam is seen as a betrayal of the tribe - leaving Islam is punishable by death. However, it is reported that many Muslims are turning to Christ. For more, visit: http://www.opendoorsuk.org/
*name changed for security purposes