Wednesday, January 6, 2010

037. Yemen: Christians vulnerable in a failing state

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 037 | Wed 06 Jan 2010

INTERCESSORS: PARTICIPANTS IN WORLD EVENTS

When I watch football, I do so as a spectator. When my son (a footballer) watches football, he does so as a participant, always looking to learn things he can apply to his own game. One of the most valuable habits prayer leaders and intercessors can develop is to watch, hear and read the news not as spectators, but as participants. We should be looking to learn things we can apply to our intercession. The world's stereotyping of intercessors as passive simpletons without 'real' options is a lie of the devil built on misconceptions. While the faithless noisily rush around the horizontal plain of their two-dimensional world, intercessors quietly engage by faith in a three-dimensional world whose height attains the heavens and whose depth reaches into a spiritual realm of unimaginable proportions. Our eternally faithful Sovereign God rules over all this and has given Jesus Christ 'as head over all things to the church' (Ephesians 1:22 ESV).

In terms of religious liberty and Christian security, 2010 promises to be an even more challenging year than 2009. Increasingly, states once known for persecution are becoming notorious for sectarian mob violence and ethnic-religious cleansing. States that once courted the world from behind a fa├žade of modernity and prosperity are revealing the darkness of their hearts with impunity. States busily excavating their Christian foundations with a view to cultural renovation are increasingly adopting repressive authoritarian measures to maintain order in the wake of moral erosion and cultural collapse. So may our 'New Year's resolution' for 2010 be that we commit to being intercessors who are participants in and not mere spectators of world events.

YEMEN: CHRISTIANS VULNERABLE IN A FAILING STATE

Yemen has been a unified state only since 1990. Before that, North Yemen (on the Red Sea) was 60 percent Shi'ite and ruled by a conservative Shi'ite Imamate, while South Yemen (on the Gulf of Aden) was 99 percent Sunni and Communist. In 1962, Ali Abdallah Saleh, a northern socialist and nominal Sunni, seized power in North Yemen in a military coup. He was elected president of North Yemen in 1978 and retains power as president of the unitary Republic of Yemen, which today is on the verge of collapse. The Shi'ites, a 30 percent minority in the unitary state, are marginalised by the Sunnis, while the oil-rich south is marginalised by the ruling north. The Shi'ites want to restore the Imamate, while the south wants to secede. Since at least 2005, President Saleh has been using al Qaeda jihadists (fundamentalist Sunnis) in his fight against the al Houthi rebels (Shi'ites) in the north and more secular (formerly Soviet-backed Communist) secessionists in the south. The conflict also has regional dimensions: Saudi Arabia is fighting advancing Iran-backed al Houthi Shi'ite rebels, while Somalis have joined the Sunnis and Lebanese Hezballah have joined the Shi'ites.

Underneath this crumbling structure are vulnerable Jewish and Christian minorities amidst a population of 24 million. In 1949-50 Israel rescued 45,000 of Yemen's Jews from genocide through Operation Magic Carpet. A further 32,000 Jews have left Yemen since then and now less than 400 remain. As sectarian conflict escalated in the north in January 2007, the Shi'ite rebels forced the 45 remaining Jews in al Haid, Sa'ada, from their homes under threat of death. Most Christians in Yemen (est. 9000 in Operation World 2000) are expatriate workers or Ethiopian refugees. They are a source of light and hope for Yemen, one of the world's poorest and least evangelised nations.. Participate! Intercede for the Church in Yemen.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT, BY HIS WORD AND HOLY SPIRIT, GOD

* will draw all Christians in Yemen into prayer and supply all their needs, increasing their faith and courage; may their lives witness to the faithfulness and supremacy of Jesus Christ.

* will awaken many Muslims in Yemen (local Arabs and foreign jihadists) to the truth that it is Jesus Christ who is the light of God.

For the 'true light, which enlightens' has come into the world. And to all who receive him, who believe in his name, he gives the right to become children of God (See John 1:9-13).

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CHRISTIANS IN YEMEN VULNERABLE IN A FAILING STATE

Yemen's President Saleh (a corrupt, brutal, nominal Sunni dictator) is fighting against Shi'ite rebels in the north and a secessionist movement in the south. His favourite tool in both conflicts has long been al Qaeda and other Salafi jihadists. The vulnerable Jewish and Christian minorities in Yemen face escalating insecurity as the state teeters on the brink of collapse. Conversion from Islam is unacceptable, and most Christians in Yemen are expatriate workers or Ethiopian refugees whose witness to the gospel of grace is invaluable. Yemen is one of the poorest and least evangelised nations in the world. Please pray that in the midst of chaos, destruction and disillusionment God will protect, sustain and build his Church in Yemen.