The US government has announced its intention to designate Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi group as a terrorist organisation, in a move that has elicited concern among international aid agencies. The designation will come into effect on 19 January, President Trump’s last full day in office. The Houthi group – also known as Ansar Allah – controls the capital Sanaa, as well as most of the territory in the North of the country, where most of the population lives. The U.S. government has accused the Houthis of “carrying out a deadly campaign that has destabilised both Yemen and the Middle East” that includes stealing money and aid and carrying out human rights abuses against dissidents. The terrorist designation will make it illegal to conduct business with the Houthis or for U.S. nationals to provide them with “material support or resources.” The designation will also likely cause international banks to cease operations with the Houthis, further deepening an on-going economic crisis and halting critical aid funds from being accessed. There is deep concern that this move could further inflame the situation on the ground, upend UN peace talks, and exacerbate the country’s humanitarian crisis. Yemen has been crippled by war since 2014, with 80% of the population in need of humanitarian aid. Several international aid organisations are forced to work with the Houthis to provide needed support to millions of people. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the government has considered the effects the designation would have on the delivery of aid. “We are planning to put in place measures to reduce their impact on certain humanitarian activity and imports into Yemen,” he said.

From a Christian perspective, persecution of believers is high in Muslim-majority Yemen. Leaving Islam is a crime, making it difficult for Christians to openly gather and offer support to one another, or their neighbours during the war. However, Christian organisations are providing both physical and spiritual aid to those who are suffering. Vernon Brewer, former founder, and CEO of World Help – a Christian aid agency – expressed the need for Christians to be more aware of the deepening crisis in Yemen. “Food is the most urgent need,” he said in an interview with Christian Post. “Millions of children across Yemen are starving to death because of a war they have nothing to do with. If we don’t respond immediately to this tragedy, what does that say about us… as Christians whose goal it is to show love to others?” Compromised peace attempts, combined with the upcoming terror designation makes it unlikely that Yemen’s crisis will end any time soon. International Christian radio ministry Trans World Radio (TWR) is one of the ministries offering messages of hope to the less than 1% Christian population, as well as challenging the global Church to stand with their family in Yemen. In an interview about the Hope for Yemen radio ministry, the Director of Arab Ministries challenged the global Church to take up the responsibility to ‘weep with those who weep,’ and to continue to lift Yemen up in prayer.

Pray with us for the following:

  • For aid distribution channels to remain open and effective in reaching those most in need
  • For those involved in the peace process to persevere, despite the additional challenges
  • For Yemeni believers to find creative, and Spirit-led ways to encourage one another and their neighbours in the face of heavy persecution