SANAA, Yemen — As political upheaval dating back to the Arab Spring continues in Yemen, United Nations special adviser Jamal Benomar expressed concern that the nation is moving toward civil war. The U.N. Security Council met on Sunday (March 22) to discuss the mounting crisis in the Mideast nation.
“Peaceful dialogue is the only way forward,” Benomar told the council. In assessing the situation, he said the country is in a “rapid downward spiral” and at “the edge of civil war.”
Greg Voss*, a Christian worker in the Middle East, observed, “Honestly, most Yemenis would rather go back to the days before the Arab Spring.”
As violence escalated between the country’s ruling Sunni Muslims and rebel Houthi Shiite Muslims, both the United States and the United Kingdom withdrew security forces. In February the U.S. closed its embassy in Yemen.
During Friday prayers on March 20, suicide bombers attacked two mosques linked to the Houthis, killing at least 125 people and wounding hundreds in the nation’s capital, Sanaa. A Sunni group claiming to be a branch of ISIS said they were responsible for the bombings.
Yemen is home to al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), one of the most powerful branches of the terrorist organization. AQAP denied any involvement in last week’s attacks on the mosques.
On Sunday, Houthi rebels took control of an international airport and government buildings in the city of Taiz, 240 miles south of Sanaa.
In January, the rebels surrounded the presidential palace in Sanaa. Days later Yemeni President Abd Rabuh Mansur Hadi resigned. He has since rescinded his resignation and made the Red Sea port
city of Aden his provisional capital. There is increasing concern that the likelihood of civil war grows as the rebels continue their push south.
The tumultuous repercussions of the Arab Spring have forced many Yemenis to question much of what they thought secure.
Despite the lack of religious and political freedom, they had far more stability — consistent jobs, electricity and water, and school for their kids. Now, much of this has vanished. Yemen currently has
one of the worst humanitarian crises in the Middle East. More than 10 million people need food assistance and 13 million cannot access clean water.
Yemen is south of Saudi Arabia, the heart of Islam. Traditionally, northern Yemen has been tribal and religiously conservative, adhering to the strictest interpretation of Islam and thus quite hostile to Christians. Southern Yemen has typically been less hostile toward the Gospel than the north, though still quite restrictive.
In both the north and south, believers continue to live out their faith as boldly as they can and support one another amid the hardships they now face.
Voss urges believers to remember that God is sovereign over all of this and that He continues drawing Yemenis to Himself.
Another Christian worker said, “At times it seems hopeless. However, our trust is not in governments or coalitions or politics. We trust in the sovereign God of history. He is working and moving, even in Yemen.
“The upheaval has caused many Yemenis to reconsider much of what they thought secure and stable in their lives. They are asking questions and seeking answers. For many of them, this means greater spiritual openness as well,” the worker said.
“Pray that this spiritual openness would continue to increase, and many would know the peace of Jesus. Pray that those who lost family and friends in the bombings would know the God of all comfort.”