Arab, Yemeni in United States

Map Source:  People Group location: U.S. Census Bureau, ACS. Map geography: ESRI / GMI. Map design: Joshua Project.
People Name: Arab, Yemeni
Country: United States
10/40 Window: No
Population: 103,000
World Population: 8,798,200
Primary Language: Arabic, Ta'izzi-Adeni
Primary Religion: Islam
Christian Adherents: 0.00 %
Evangelicals: 0.00 %
Scripture: Portions
Online Audio NT: No
Jesus Film: Yes
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: Arab, Yemeni
Affinity Bloc: Arab World
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

The Arabs from the Arabian Peninsula are the original Arabs. Tribes of nomads from the Arabian Desert developed Arab culture. From there, they expanded into what we now know as the Arab World, where Arabic is the key language.

Yemenis started migrating north during the pre-Islamic era. Many Arab families with common names (e.g., Haddad, Haddadeen, which means Smith or metalworker) that have long family trees in Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Jordan trace their ancestry to that early migration from Yemen. For example, the family name, Haddadeen, originated in Sana'a.

There are many Arabic dialects spoken in Yemen. Today, there is a sharp division between Yemeni from the northern tribes and the southern ones. Those from the north descended from Mesopotamians, who entered their land 1,000 years before Christ. They claim Ismail from the Book of Genesis, and their patriarch. Those from the south believe they descended from Qahtan, also known as Joktan, in the Bible.

The north and the south were separate nations in the 70s and 80s; one backed by communists and the other by the West. They merged for a couple of years, but now they are fighting once again. Iran backs one side using Shia Islam as their banner, while the other supports a Sunni Muslim head of state. Yemenis would love to have the fighting stop, but the situation is out of their control.

The war is driving people out of Yemen, and there is a large Yemeni diaspora, especially in nearby countries like Oman, Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Egypt, Sudan, and Kenya. There is also a diaspora in Western nations like the UK and the US.

The first Yemenis to settle in the US did so between the 1870s-90s. Some gained citizenship by fighting in WWI and WWII. The number of new Yemeni migrants slowed dramatically during the Great Depression of the 1930s. It increased again in 1965 when there were fewer restrictions on immigration from Asia and the Middle East.

One is most likely to find Yemeni Arabs in Detroit, Buffalo or California's Central Valley. Smaller numbers live in New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area. Those who live in Detroit have traditionally been in the auto industry, those in Buffalo worked in the steel mills and those in California were farm workers. Today, many of these jobs no longer exist, so they are working elsewhere.

Typically, young Yemeni Arab men would migrate to the US with the intention of returning to Yemen. They would save money through frugal living and send it to their families. This pattern continued for 20 years before there was an economic slowdown in the US. Others settled in the US and Yemeni women came to join them.

What Are Their Lives Like?

Yemenis often struggle with the huge cultural differences between their Arab homeland and the new country. Most Yemeni men work long hours to support their families. Yemeni women often married before they could finish high school. Parents arranged marriages; however, it is becoming more acceptable for young people to choose their own mates. Yemeni Arab women in the US are tasked with raising children and maintaining the home. Those who continue their conservative practice of Islam wear the black niqab in public, often at the insistence of their husbands. Many American-born Yemeni daughters run away from home, seeking freedom from the traditional Yemeni lifestyle.

What Are Their Beliefs?

The Yemeni Arabs have had a close association with Islam since it began in the 600s. Today, nearly all the Yemeni Arabs are Muslim, no matter where they live. Two-thirds of Yemenis adhere to some form of Sunni Islam, and about one-third are Shia Muslims. Though they vary in terms of tribal loyalty, one thing Yemeni Arabs all agree on is devotion to the Islamic religious system. Almost none of them have put their trust in Jesus Christ, no matter where they live.

What Are Their Needs?

Yemeni Arabs in diaspora need peace in their homeland. All of them have family members whose lives are in jeopardy because of the fighting. There will be no end to the fighting until there is humble repentance, and the acknowledgement that they must submit to the sin-free Savior. They need the intervention of Jesus Christ.

Prayer Points

Pray for a lasting and just peace in Yemen that will allow the Yemeni diaspora to return home.

Pray for an end to foreign military intervention and blockades in Yemen.

Pray for the Lord to use the instability in Yemen to help Muslim Yemenis to understand they need a Savior.

Pray for the small number of Yemeni believers to boldly proclaim the gospel to their families, friends and neighbors.

Pray for small, extended-family based home fellowships to multiply in the United States.

Pray for more workers to enter the harvest via foreign assistance organizations.

Text Source:   Joshua Project