WFP/Mohammed Awadh

Yemen needs good neighbors

The eyes of the world have been on the suffering of Ukraine and rightly so. Russia is executing a brutal invasion. The atrocities are mounting, and Ukraine needs support from international friends to protect its country and care for displaced and injured people. Unfortunately, Ukraine is not the only country suffering from devastation. There is a war in Yemen that is creating what observers are calling “one of the world’s largest humanitarian crises.” It has that label for good reason.

Four hundred thousand Yemeni children are at risk of dying from malnutrition this year. More than 10,000 children have already been killed since the beginning of the war. Tragically, the plight of these children is just the tip of the iceberg. The World Food Program reports that more than 19 million people are at risk of not having the food they need for basic nutrition through December 2022, and increasing numbers of women and children are facing what UNICEF is calling “emergency levels of hunger.”

The infrastructure that could help address this crisis is also crumbling. Yemen’s healthcare system is operating at less than half of its pre-war capacity. The Saudi blockade of ports is halting the flow of resources and denying the country the fuel necessary for transporting goods to where they are needed, further exacerbating the food crisis.

Yemeni schools are in trouble as well. With more than 2 million children internally displaced, and countless schools damaged and closed by the fighting, access to education has been decimated. There are important efforts to teach children how to avoid unexploded ordnance and mines, and basic coping skills for trauma, but the institutions that are there to help – schools, hospitals, and other organizations – are reeling. Many healthcare workers have not received a regular paycheck for several years.

As Christians, we should care deeply about what’s happening in Yemen. Jesus shows us how. Yemen needs some good neighbors. As the people of Yemen experience deprivation and war, we can care, we can stop long enough to see, to learn, and to look for our opportunity to reach out and serve.

The suffering is directly connected to the war, which has been dragging on for eight years, leaving devastation in its long wake. After a Houthi takeover of the country in 2014, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates responded militarily. The Saudi-led Sunni coalition is backed by the United States with material assistance. Since 2014, the war has been brutal, especially for the country’s most vulnerable, the women and children. There are reports of children being abducted and forced to be child soldiers. Many of the young women are married before they turn 15.

As Christians, we should care deeply about what’s happening in Yemen. Jesus shows us how. He did not stay far off, but came close to those in need. This incarnational love is a love that draws near, that looks, that embraces, that seeks to minister to those under the pain of oppression or deprivation. We are more like Jesus when we do the same.

Indeed, Jesus taught this principle to his followers. The Good Samaritan’s example is about caring enough to stop. As Jesus’ parable goes, several travelers noticed the plight of the wounded man, beaten and bloodied in the ditch, but only the Good Samaritan cared enough. He cared enough to stop his journey, to look, to see, to find the opportunity for service. Jesus suggested that the Good Samaritan exemplified the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27). Upon telling the story and establishing with his listeners that the Samaritan was the better neighbor, he offered a refreshingly direct encouragement: “go and do likewise.”

Yemen needs some good neighbors. As the people of Yemen experience deprivation and war, we can care, we can stop long enough to see, to learn, and to look for our opportunity to reach out and serve.

Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon is the executive director, Churches for Middle East Peace, Washington, D.C. Emily Sarmiento is president & CEO, TearFund USA, Centennial, Colorado.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of American Baptist Home Mission Societies.

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