Millions of Ethiopian Christian immigrants are living under difficult social, cultural and economic conditions in Yemen.
Famine, starvation, unemployment, torture, abuse, and lack of freedom and democracy in their birth country force them to migrate to Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the world. In order to survive, a Christian in Yemen has to convert to Islam or be alienated.
The consequences of not converting can be felt in both life — and death. If an Ethiopian Christian maintains their religion, after death the Yemeni government will not permit them to be buried in Sana’a. The deceased’s name has to be changed (for a fee) to an Islam name by a known Muslim Ethiopian who has good contact with Yemeni officials.
Mr. Imran and Hajji Ahmed are Muslim Ethiopians who have been living in Yemen for more than 20 years. Both are married to half cast Yemenis (in Arabic they are known as Muweleds). They earn a living from Ethiopian refugees in Yemen by processing documents and getting licenses for burial.
Since they have lived in Yemen for many years, they say they understand the behavior of Yemenis when it comes to money. They are also close relatives of Tofick Abdullahi Ahemed, the Ambassador of the Ethiopian Embassy in Yemen. The Ambassador believes that Christianity should not be acknowledged in Yemen.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church and two Ethiopian Protestant Churches in Yemen are now claiming the Embassy and the ruling faction in Ethiopia do nothing to solve the violence they are experiencing in Yemen.
Meanwhile, the Embassy says its main objective is promoting trade, investment and tourism.
Naturally, it is disheartening to see that Ethiopians in Yemen have unequal status and are denied their human dignity for whatever reason. They are not seeking amnesty, they are just seeking to live in peace and establish an address and an identity at this time and age.
For centuries, Ethiopians have welcomed Yemeni refugees fleeing, for various reasons, to Ethiopia. Political oppression and economic hardships have been the driving forces for migration from Yemen to Ethiopia. These two factors and the hospitality of the Ethiopian peoples have created the cultural bridges between Ethiopia and Yemen.
Even today, Yemenis live and work in Ethiopia, and many of the first and second generations of immigrant Yemenis have been granted Ethiopian citizenship for centuries. They are free to live and practice their Islamic religion freely.
In the 7th Century, Islam had a chance to learn its history and respect for fundamental human rights outside Arabia by moving to Ethiopia rather than anywhere else. This is a distinction given to this great nation by the Muslim Prophet – who invoked the name of Ethiopia as “the land of justice where no-one would be oppressed.” How would an Ethiopian who is proud of his history as the “Land of the just” be denied living his/her Christian faith?
Yemen and South Arabia were once part of the mighty Ethiopian Axumite Empire. The blood of Yemeni and Ethiopian nations are already mixed, their culture is identical and their affinity goes back into thousand years of history from the Queen of Sheba on and down to today. Very few Yemenis dare to draw the line between these two peoples. Even the Red Sea loses its meaning and international marks when it comes to the historical and familial connections between the Ethiopians and Yemenis.
Despite the current hardship and mighty challenges Ethiopia face, it is still a great nation, and its people deserve better treatment. Justice for the Ethiopian refuges in Yemen is overdue. Any cover-up reason to deny peaceful people the right to live among the Yemenis is unacceptable and it is only right to be grateful for the Ethiopian people who gave much to Yemen at its time of need. Much is expected from those who receive.
For the Ethiopians, it is a matter of choice and their fundamental human rights to live and practice their Christian faith as free as possible on God’s earth. The lack of ideological will and gratitude to the Ethiopian people who are denied recognition and protection at the time of their needs, shows that those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat its past mistakes.
Guaranteeing refugees the right to live freeing as human beings and the right to practice their preferred faith is a higher moral obligation than any other act of charity, and gratitude is an important cultural and religious quality. History will judge, God will judge the Yemenis and the whole Arab nation by what they do now to the people of Ethiopia.