Greetings in Jesus’ name!
I am very sad to inform you that the situation in Yemen has been deteriorating very seriously. The Houthi rebels have been in control of Yemen’s capital, Sanaa since September 2014. Among twenty one provinces, nine provinces were captured by Houthis. In this situation Yemen’s President Hadi asked for support from regional powers. Saudi Arabia and the coalition of ten other Arab countries have begun air raids and shelling on Houthi positions of control. 1,50,000 troops are ready to launch operations and hundreds of Saudi’s war planes launched air strikes against Houthis in Yemen. Today all airports and sea ports are closed in Yemen.
Today Mansour shared that during this time of war robbery, looting and plundering have been increasing in public and private properties in all parts of Aden. The Presidential palace in Aden was plundered yesterday and all the materials were looted away. In this situation to safeguard our Church, Clinic and our property, we have deployed more security personnel in the campus. On Wednesday morning from 10.00 am local time the Eye Clinic remains closed indefinitely. Moreover, all Education Institutions and Government offices also remain closed now. Fierce fights are going on, not only in the neighboring cities but also in Aden, nearly 2 km away from our Church.
The situation in Yemen forced us to leave Aden and now Vijaya and I are in India. On the last Friday, the worship service could not be conducted in Christ Church. However, so far the Christ Church and the Ras Morbat Eye Clinic are not affected with any serious problems.
The people of Aden are in a state of insecurity and there is no peace due to unjust social order followed by war. Today I contacted the staff in the clinic, maintenance staff and all the members of the Christ Church over phone and encouraged them to face the difficult situation in God’s name.
Kindly pray for peace and security for all in Yemen and its people particularly the ministry of the Christ Church and the Ras Morbat Clinic and members of the congregation.
I would be very grateful to you, if you could remember us and the Christ Church in your family prayers and as a congregation in tomorrow’s worship service.
Fr. Velvet and Vijaya.
The political problems in Yemen are only now featuring in the international news headlines. It has taken some real effort to track the developments in Yemen over the past three months in English language media, but the increasing unrest has now progressed toward outright civil war. Houthi troups loyal to former President Saleh have swept down from Sanaa and are in the process of taking over Aden. President Hadi’s exact whereabouts are unknown – he is purported to have fled the country but his supporters maintain his is still in control of Aden. As Saudi-led coalition air strike bombards Sanaa the crisis deepens into a proxy war between other Middle East countries who fear each others’ influence. Coupled with strong sentiment among many in the south that a return to divided Yemen is the solution of their local problems, the present conflict has many layers and complexities.
Until the last couple of days when shooting and looting have become more widespread, the clinic in Aden has continued to operate as normal, seeing 40-50 patients each day. The staff show courage and tenacity enabling the clinic to continue to serve the Yemeni people. There has been no fighting in the area immediately around the clinic. Fr Velvet and Vijaya returned to India for the time being because everyone involved felt that the presence of foreigners on the property increased the risk for everyone. The church community however continue to meet on Fridays when they can travel freely in the city.
There are strikes and demonstrations in Aden. There has been an arial bombardment of the residence where President Hadi was staying but we are told nobody was hurt. There has been armed conflict between government fighters and supporters of the Houthi movement. It is clear that a civil war will be inconclusive and only deepen the confusion, poverty and basic survival factors for the Yemeni people throughout the country. What’s more, it will also give more scope for IS and AQAP to extend their influence among the tribes.
As always, we covet the prayers of our friends and supporters. Please pray for the eventuality of reconciliation and lasting peace. Please remember that there are many Christians in the country from African and subcontinent nationalities who are also caught up in the unrest and insecurity. Pray too for the safety of the staff as they travel to and from work, and for the church community as they have some distance to travel to meet with other believers. We think of them especially as they celebrate Easter.
May God continue to work in and through his people to reflect his righteousness and peace.
Fr Velvet and Vijaya are currently in India with bookings to return in a month.
With the decision to relocate the President’s office to Aden and reconstitute the recognised government from the presidential office in Aden, a period of confusion and some fighting erupted in the streets of Aden. The government is in the process of consolidating power. Of course, there is a lot of firing in the air as well, which is also very dangerous. There is considerable uncertainty about peace and security in Yemen as a whole and in Aden at the moment. If the government is successful in re-establishing itself, civil security in Aden will return to normal soon and it will be possible for Velvet and Vijaya to return after things settle down.
Mansour continues to watch over the Christ Church compound and clinic. The clinic is functioning more or less normally. Because the area around the clinic is largely military (naval) there is less likelihood of rioting in the immediate vicinity of Christ Church unless civil (and military) authority collapses entirely. There is still a credible threat from Al Qa’eda supporters, and there was an assassination of a high military official recently in Aden. Mansour is advising us of the security situation as it evolves. We covet prayers for Yemen, its people, for peace and security for all, but also for our staff and their families and for the ongoing work of the clinic where people continue to be received and treated as an expression of God’s care for them.
The Revd Velvet and his wife Revd Vijaya arrived in Aden on 19 November 2014 and were warmly welcomed by the congregation and staff at Ras Morbat. Bishop Michael conducted their licensing service in November.
Since then they have been busy celebrating Christmas and setting up a new church service in one of the Indian languages, Malayalam, enabling some to worship in their own language.
Father Velvet writes,
“On 13th December Bishop Michael inaugurated our Christmas celebrations by cutting a Christmas cake with the congregation in the presence of the staff of Ras Morbat Clinic. And on the 24th December the English congregation celebrated Christmas Eve along with cultural programmes and a fellowship dinner. Father Christmas (Santa Claus) distributed special gifts to all children. On Friday, 26th December the Malayalam congregation also celebrated Christmas with carol services, games and with a fellowship dinner.
The End of Year Thanksgiving service is a milestone in the history of Christ Church, Aden. During this meeting all the members shared their testimonies.
The new year of 2015 is a blessed one for Christ Church, Aden. We started Bible study classes for children and for adults, led by Revd Vijaya and Revd Velvet respectively.
Revd Velvet and the Adult Bible Study class
The Children’s Bible Study group with Revd Vijaya
The situation in Yemen is worsening. The President resigned due to political uncertainty. Instability in Sana continues but Aden is not affected much. The airports in Sana and Aden were closed for a few days, but now Aden airport is open. However strikes every Monday create lots of problems in different parts of the city. By God’s grace, so far the issues have not yet affected the service of Christ Church and the work of the Ras Morbat Clinic.”
The Rev Velvet John and his wife Vijaya arrived in Aden at the end of November to take up his role as the new chaplain at Christchurch and Director of the Clinics.
We are grateful for their arrival and think of them as they settle into life and ministry at Christchurch and get to grips with a new culture. Bishop Michael visited Aden mid December and conducted their licensing service.
Click the images to see larger versions of photographs from the Licensing
Fr Velvet comes from Kerala, India where he was Dean of Certificate, Graduate, and Postgraduate Studies for TAFTEE (The Association for Theological Education by Extension) and also Associate Pastor of St James, Bangalore, and an executive member of the Bangalore Medical Ethics Committee.
Fr Velvet and his wife Revd Vijaya
Prior to his appointment Fr Velvet and Vijaya visited Aden with Archdeacon Bill and met the clinic staff and congregation. All who work and worship at Christchurch Ras Morbat have been eagerly anticipating having a chaplain in place and their arrival in time for Christmas will be a great encouragement to the small congregation. The new beginning that is possible because of the birth of Christ the Redeemer will be celebrated all over the world this month. But His birth will also be celebrated here, quietly and simply, as the outside world carries on oblivious, by a faithful few. We rejoice with them in this new beginning.
The Church decorated for Christmas
The work of the clinics, serving the poor, continues. There is scope for the eye clinic to expand to provide a broader range of treatment to even more people. The staff work with dedication; preparations for the arrival of the new chaplain have included an review of the building maintenance. Recognition must go especially to Mansour for the extra load he has carried in day to day management in the absence of a permanent chaplain in recent months.
Patients waiting at the Clinic
We trust that Fr Velvet and Vijaya will come to know the warm welcome of the people of Aden and be a blessing to all who pass through the gates of Christchurch.
(Council of Reference)