SHAFAQNA – A gem hidden deep in Arabia, Yemen’s history still echoes of the footsteps of some of the world’s most prominent historical, and religious figures. The land time forgot, a land made red and gold by the intensity of its Sun, Yemen’s religious history has been unfairly portrayed – redacted even, so that the world would only know of it, what certain powers aim to project.
A majority Muslim country it may be, Yemen is also home … or at least was home, to thriving Jewish and Christian communities. It is this history, this rich and vibrant patrimoine the likes of Saudi Arabia – the world’s most violent, and reactionary theocracy, has worked to obliterate.
For several decades now – since 1962, if one wants to be precise – the kingdom has run a vengeful campaign against Yemen’s religious pluralism, reshaping this once proud, and tolerant nation of Arabia to its own vengeful image. Of this war you most likely have never heard anything about … you most probably remain under the impression that Yemen was only ever a Muslim state … that no other faith before that ever graced its shores and populated its mountains.
May I gently remind readers that Yemen’s first encounter with monotheism was by way of Shem, one of Noah’s sons, a man God blessed with many heirs so that they could repopulate the Earth. It was Shem several millennia ago who architected Sana’a, Yemen’s capital city. To this very day, and despite Riyadh’s best efforts, Sana’a Old City still stands a testament to its Biblical past.
I say Biblical because no one in Yemen will ever reject any of god’s Books, and any of God’s prophets. In Yemen, those very names you hold most dear – those names you whisper in your prayers and beseech in your worship, Yemen reveres just as hard.
Yemen has walked alongside many of God’s Prophets … Yemeni arms have built many of God’s houses: temples, churches, mosques. In all of them it is God, and him alone, Yemenis have kneeled to, prostrated themselves before, and asked forgiveness to. Who’s to say which manners of worship God will find most favourable if in fact it comes from a humble and true heart?
Yemen long ago pledged itself to the God of Abraham … never once did its people look back, never once did they turn away – and together they always stood.
That is until today. That is until radicalism came to unfairly tear communities apart, raiding and looting what was Yemen’s glorious testament to religious tolerance.
You most likely believe that Christianity lives not in Yemen, that Christians are not in fact welcome in Yemen.
That would be the deceit Saudi Arabia has worked to make come true. That would be the lie, an army of Wahhabi clerics has worked to manifest on the ground by removing all traces of Yemen’s Christian heritage.
Jesus speaks in Yemen! God’s churches still ring, although ever so quietly now that war has claimed most of its bells.
Who will speak for those souls which have burned under the fire of Wahhabism? Who will speak for those communities and those families who were denied help for Christianity failed to recognize its brethren, and instead allowed for prejudice to blind its gaze?
Yemen’s Resistance did! Those very forces the Western world labelled as rebellious and illegitimate have risen a tide against Wahhabism religious crusade, determined to protect those they call brothers and sisters. Regardless of what many have said of Yemen, and on Yemen, no harm will ever come to those who follow the words of Jesus, Son of Mary.
How could it when, Muslims await for his return with the same hope, and fierce certainty?
Paul Yule’s work, an archeologist from the southwestern German city of Heidelberg, attests of Yemen’s Christian past.
For several decades now Saudi Arabia has exerted its suffocating influence onto Yemen, breeding hate and intolerance where there was once brotherhood and respect. Thanks to a covert campaign of Wahhabization Yemen has been turned into a hotbed for extremism, where violent radicals’ understanding of the Scriptures is limited to bloodshed.
A minority now living in fear, Yemen’s Christians have been reduced to practice their faith underground. Such a sad state of affair ever only took place under Rome’s murderous oppression of early Christians. How far have we fallen?!
Under Riyadh’s strict patronage the Yemeni government does not permit the establishment of buildings or worship places without prior permission.
This reality Yemen’s Resistance movement ambitions to overturn.
Oppressed in their faith for they do not follow Wahhabism, the Houthis of Yemen understand what it is to suffer religious intolerance. And such intolerance they are bent on eradicating.
The question is will they succeed when so many nations have chosen to oppose them? Ironically it is Christian nations which have most violently denounced Yemen’s Resistance movement, oblivious to the fact it is their faith they are condemning to annihilation.
There is another assumption about Yemen I’d like to tackle if I may, and that is this belief that Yemenis are stuck in between the intolerance of Saudi Arabia, and that of Iran. Unlike Saudi Arabia which made all faiths unlawful but its own: Wahhabism, Iran is home to Christian and Jewish communities. Unlike Saudi Arabia which labels all non-Wahhabis: apostates, and thus legalise religious oppression, Iran abides by Islam’s Covenants with the People of the Book (those who follow God’s Scriptures, and recognize His prophets).
And while it may upset certain politicians to admit to such truths, Iran stands a grand protector of religious pluralism, in keeping with the teachings of the Prophet of Islam, and the wisdom spoken by his progeny.
Islam can never be an enemy of Christianity or Judaism, not without forfeiting its own prophets, and that of course it will never do.
By Catherine Shakdam – This article appeared first in the American Tribune