YEMEN: Salesian Missionaries are Assisting Those Struggling to Survive Amid Violence and Civil War
(MissionNewswire) The situation in Yemen is becoming more and more untenable for five Salesian priests, the only Catholic priests remaining in Yemen, who continue their work in the country despite ongoing violence and civil war. Serving as missionaries from the Don Bosco Province of Bangalore, India, the priests have been in Yemen for the past 28 years operating four Salesian centers throughout the country. One center is located in Sana’a, the capital of Yemen and the city with the highest number of Christians in the country, and the three other centers are in the cities of Aden, Taiz and Hodeida.
The United Nations has been pushing for a halt to airstrikes and fighting that have killed close to 3,000 people in the country since March when a Saudi-led coalition intervened against Iranian-backed Houthi forces to try to restore exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to power. According to reports from international organizations, almost 80 percent of the country’s population, more than 20 million people, are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. Salesian missionaries in the country are working with poor youth and their families in need of assistance despite a host of challenges.
“There is a shortage of electricity, medicines, water and food and the infrastructure has been destroyed by bombing,” says a Salesian priest in Yemen. “Millions of people are living in real misery, constantly in fear of the bombing. There are many who are maimed and others with serious wounds. The psychological damage to children and young people is impossible to calculate.”
Cities such as Aden and Taiz have been devastated. In Aden, two of the three churches served by the Salesian missionaries were looted and partially destroyed. Missionaries reported that things within the church were broken and the few items of value were taken. Although the churches were damaged, Salesian missionaries remain more concerned about the local people who are just trying to survive.
“In Aden, there is heavy fighting taking place and there is a great shortage of the most basic goods,” adds the Salesian priest. “Life is really miserable and to make things worse, there seems to be an epidemic of dengue fever and about 5,000 people are affected. Some have already died and the most likely causes are the lack of cleaning, the stagnant water that lies everywhere and the dead bodies that remain for days in the streets.”
Despite international efforts to resolve the situation, peace talks in Geneva have failed and the bombing continues. While the situation in Yemen has always been difficult for Salesian missionaries, the current fighting in the country, and in particular within Aden, has made it more difficult than ever. With assistance from the Salesian priests, the Sisters of Charity, the only Catholic religious congregation present in the country other than the Salesians, focus their work on humanitarian activities in hospitals, centers for the aged and the infirm and homes for poor and disadvantaged youth. In Sana’a, Salesian missionaries also serve the Catholics attached to the diplomatic missions of various countries.
The Salesian priests and Sisters of Charity are planning to remain in Yemen and assess the situation and their own safety day to day with their primary focus continuing to be on helping those most in need.