Thursday, February 2, 2012

Ethiopian Christians face hardships in Yemen

SANA’A: With a population predominantly Muslim, 43 percent of Yemen being Sunni and 45 percent being Zaidi Shia, Christians have expressed some difficulty in blending in, often accusing the government of enticing antipathy towards their religious denomination.

Over the past few years millions of Ethiopians, mainly Christians came to seek refuge in Yemen, running from difficult social, cultural and economic conditions in their homeland.

Even Yemen’s popular uprising could not hinder the fast pace of arrivals, with tens of thousands of newcomers arriving on a monthly basis, braving deadly travel conditions in the hope to find at last a safe haven, away from violence and famine.

Today, thousands of Ethiopians have opened up on the difficulties they are facing in regards to their faith.

“Most Yemenis look at us with disgust as we are not like them. Many Ethiopians are unable to find work or even rent a house for we are discriminated against. I know a lot of us who chose to convert to Islam for a chance of a better life…and even then our skin color differentiates us from them [the Yemeni],” Moulook Dawit told

Others speak of social stigma and often abuse when they choose to openly embrace their Christianity, with men being beaten up and women harassed by Islamist groups.

“Yemenis call us names, refusing to ever socialize with us as if we were diseased. Our daughters are shunned away from school and our wives suffer daily verbal abuse. Going to the Police is useless as we will get automatically blame,” said one guard.

Even in death, Ethiopians are treated differently, with the government refusing to allow them to be buried in the capital, Sana’a, as it argues that its cemeteries are strictly Muslim.

Several Yemeni rights activists have said that they will work at mending the ties between Yemeni Muslims and Ethiopian Christians as they say they wanted Yemen to become a civil state where citizens’ rights, no matter their faith would be respected.