“Al Qaeda-linked militants who claimed responsibility for the death of an American teacher in Yemen yesterday said he was targeted for being ‘one of the biggest American proselytizers’ in the Arab nation,” the Christian Science Monitor reports.
3/19/2012 Yemen (Christian Science Monitor) – Al Qaeda-linked militants who claimed responsibility for the death of an American teacher in Yemen yesterday said he was targeted for being "one of the biggest American proselytizers" in the Arab nation.
The controversy highlights the sensitive nature of Christian aid workers in Yemen, an almost entirely Muslim country. While Christians from Catholic sisters to African expatriates have lived and worked for decades here, isolated cases of proselytizing by foreigners have occasionally raised suspicions about the activities of Christian nonprofit organizations and workers.
Some here have come to suspect that church-affiliated groups are fronts for efforts to convert Muslims to Christianity, something that’s a major taboo in deeply conservative Yemen, where the maximum penalty for apostasy is death.
Last week, Saudi Arabia's top cleric underscored the lack of religious tolerance in much of the Arabian peninsula, where Yemen is located, by saying that it was "necessary to destroy all the churches of the region."
Yemen's constitution does not protect freedom of religion, according to a State Department report, but Christian charity organizations have long been active in the country. The Catholic Missionaries of Charity, along with a handful of Protestant charities, have openly worked in the impoverished country since the 1970s, and habit-bedecked sisters are an occasional sight on the streets of some Yemeni cities.