Hope and dignity for people with disabilities in the MENA
In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), societal stigma and shame around disability is widespread while support structures, at both the local and national level, are very limited. SAT-7’s channels seek to offer opportunities for people with disabilities to be represented, and to share their stories in societies in which they are often side-lined.
SAT-7 ARABIC viewer Lana, who has muscular dystrophy, recently shared her story on the program You Are Not Alone. “My struggle started as a result of a birth injury, and I used a wheelchair for 10 years,” she says. After many surgeries and rounds of physiotherapy, Lana continues, she was able to walk for the first time at the age of 10. “Now, I work as an assistant teacher in an organisation for people with disabilities, and I encourage the students there. Nothing stands in my way.”
Lana also emphasises how the support her family gave her played a pivotal role in her wellbeing as a child. “I want to send a message to parents who have a child with a disability at home – that they should accept that child, encourage them for any little achievement, and give them hope, because support is the basis for life,” she says.
Lana’s message is a crucial one for families who often must overcome shame and stigma to advocate for their children’s dignity and inclusion in society. “In that part of the world, when you have a disability; when you suffer a life-altering injury; when your child is born with a chronic condition – there’s just not much support. At least not the kind that meets the real need, that shows hope and compassion,” explains US-based disability advocate, and SAT-7 supporter, Joni Eareckson Tada.
You Are Not Alone is one of many SAT-7 programs, from dramas to testimony programs, that represent people with disabilities or amplify their voices and calls for action. Another recent episode featured hearing-impaired guest speaker Mohamad Ghassani, who called for greater inclusion. “I ask the Lebanese government to reinforce sign language usage in Lebanon so I can communicate better in society,” he says. “I want to have my own business and to start a family.”
SAT-7 ARABIC AND SAT-7 TURK have also shared the stories of many other people, from the team at a coffee shop staffed by young people with disabilities to a mother who shared about her bond with her daughter, who has Down Syndrome, as well as the struggles her family faces. SAT-7 KIDS, meanwhile, raises awareness and promotes inclusion by inviting children living with and without disabilities together on the program City of Stars.
SAT-7’s many other Christ-centred programs reinforce to viewers the God-given value of every person and how loved they are by Him, a message dearly needed by people with disabilities and others who are suffering. Joni Eareckson Tada explains:
“Our ministry, Joni and Friends, delivers wheelchairs to needy refugees in Syria and in Jordanian camps. The stories of these people, and all that they have suffered, break my heart. With so much turmoil in that area of the world, people are looking for real hope. In the same way, when I was searching so many years ago – when I broke my neck in a diving accident – I needed rigorous, rugged, and reliable hope. And this is why the ministry of SAT-7 is so desperately needed.”