A story from the opening day of the National Dialogue in Yemen illustrates well the enormous challenges that are facing the country. The opening session was attended by hundreds of people from the full cross section of society – political, sectarian, civil and religious heavy weights, a hand picked selection of the 6200 tribal sheikhs (with their heavily armed body guards having to stay outside) and a minority of youth activists representing the majority of their country (75% of the population is under 29 years). As the conference broke for lunch, participants were each given a ticket to the food hall. As with any conference in any culture, it was the youth that were most eager to rush across the room to greet a friend or network together to share about their hopes and dreams for the dialogue. Meanwhile the well established leaders and tribal sheikhs of the country headed straight for the buffet lunch. By the time the youth activists made it down to the restaurant the tribal leaders were sitting back very content, belching after a great feed (and having smuggled food already out to their entourages) …and there was not a scrap of food left for those who really were hopeful of seeing a different future for their country.
It is incredible that a conference with endless international donor funding and upon whose outcome they are pinning the hope and future of the country would run out of food. But it is also incredible how badly the significant resources of the country have been pillaged for so many decades and how power still remains in the hands of a very influential few. A democratic political process is one thing….true attitude and behaviour change that benefits the majority is a whole other story. The clash of a booming population and squeeze on dwindling food and water (up to 30% of children are malnourished), electricity (with multiple daily power cuts) and oil resources (which were supposed to run dry in 2012) is the new normal.
The remaking of a society like this needs a deeper transformation and the developing of kingdom values that reflect the picture Jesus gave in the beatitudes.
You can join with God’s people in that nation to fast and pray for the country every monday.