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Diocese explores sending priest to Aden in war-torn Yemen

10 March 2023


A Yemeni health worker holds the hand of a malnourished child at a hospital in Sanaa, Yemen, last week

A Yemeni health worker holds the hand of a malnourished child at a hospital in Sanaa, Yemen, last week

EIGHT years after civil war broke out in Yemen, the diocese in Cyprus & the Gulf is considering returning a priest to the port city of Aden.

The diocese is looking at whether funding can be secured for a joint post of a chaplain for Christ Church, Aden, and port chaplain. Aden is one of the largest and most important ports in Yemen, and a vital link for getting aid into the war-torn country.

The previous Chaplain of Christ Church, the Revd Velvet John, also served as port chaplain to the many seafarers there. He was forced to leave in 2015, after fighting broke out in Aden. The clinic has continued to serve patients, but the church has opened only on request, and has been looked after by a member of staff, who has been caring for Roman Catholic churches in Aden, which are currently also empty of clergy.

The Archdeacon in Cyprus, the Ven. Christopher Futcher, has just returned from a visit to Aden, where he stayed in the Christ Church Center, which houses the church, a vicarage, and the Ras Morbat eye clinic, which offers treatment to Yemenis (News, 21 October 2022).

He said that he and his wife, the Revd Anne Futcher, were able to open the church for morning and evening prayer, during their visit. “It would be lovely if a priest could be there as people return to Yemen, though currently none of the embassies are there, and the NGO only send staff in and out again. We want to work with the Mission to Seafarers to see if there is the possibility for joint funding for a post of priest and port chaplain.”

A fragile ceasefire in the civil war was agreed last April, and efforts are under way to renew the truce. Archdeacon Futcher said that, while Aden itself was peaceful, there were reports of fighting north of the city during his visit.

The UN held a donor conference at the end of February to appeal for the $4.3 billion that, it said, was needed to help Yemeni people through the crisis. The target was note met: international donors pledged $1.2 billion.

More than 21 million people in Yemen — two-thirds of the population — need help and protection, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which says that the humanitarian needs are “shocking”. More than 17 million people are considered particularly vulnerable.

Aid agencies were critical of the lack of funding. “The international community today showed it has abandoned Yemen at this crucial crossroads,” Erin Hutchinson, the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Yemen country director, said. “This is woefully inadequate, and gives the signal that some humans are less valuable than others.”

Archdeacon Futcher said that the Ras Morbat clinic was trying do its best for a “neglected people”. It is considering expanding the services it offers, beyond eye care, to meet wider needs in the community.

The Archdeacon said: “Refugees come in for treatment on Tuesdays; they travel in from the camps to the clinic. Staff from the clinic use to go out to the camps, but they were advised not to do that; so refugees come in for treatment — mostly for cataracts and glaucoma. People are affected much earlier in life by cataracts and glaucoma than in the UK, because of the very bright light there.

“Clinic staff want to start going to schools to pick up eye problems earlier among children.”

The Episcopal Church in the United States has offered funding for another member of staff for the clinic.

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