INVESTING IN YOUNG PEOPLE KEY TO MIDDLE EAST FUTURE
“If we want to change the face of the Middle East, we have to start with young people.” This was SAT-7 CEO Rita El-Mounayer’s message to ministry Partners at our European Vision Meeting.
Highlighting the fact that 60 per cent of the region’s population is aged under 25, Rita stressed the need to build hope in the hearts and minds of the young generation: “Now, more than ever, we want to invest in these lives while they are still young.” She said that of all SAT-7’s goals for the coming year, this was the one closest to her heart.
The European Vision Meeting brings together SAT-7’s European Partners and friends in Copenhagen, Denmark, to hear updates on SAT-7’s ministry and share expertise on key subjects such as Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB). This year’s event, hosted by the Danish Bible Society, took place on Friday (29 September) with 52 people attending and a further 35 joining online.
Rita gave an update on three SAT-7 youth initiatives: Youth for an Enabling Society (YES), which aims to encourage young people in Egypt to invest in their local community and wider society; Lebanon Our Story (LOS), which is bringing together young people from different backgrounds to build bridges between divided communities; and an annual youth festival in Türkiye, supported and filmed by SAT-7’s Turkish channel.
Rita began her presentation to the EVM with an overview of some of the recent crises to hit the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. She cited the devastating earthquake in Türkiye in February, the cry of the Iranian people for freedom, soaring inflation in Egypt and Lebanon, and September’s disasters in Morocco and Libya. “Every country in the MENA has its challenges,” she said, “and in this context, SAT-7 tries to give hope.”
Hope is much needed given the intensity of some of these challenges. Ivan Nielsen, former special representative for the Syria crisis at the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, drew a vivid picture of the suffering experienced by the Syrian people in the midst of continuing violence, humanitarian crisis, and economic collapse.
Mattias Söderberg from DanChurchAid spoke about how the region is struggling with severe environmental problems, and explained how its churches are responding to the Christian mandate to care for creation. And Mansour Borji, Founder and Director of Article 18, explained how the right to FoRB helped to drive last year’s Iranian uprising under the banner of “Woman, Life, Freedom”.
“HOPE IS A PERSON”
Yet hope was a recurring theme of the one-day conference. Johannes Baun of the Danish Bible Society opened the meeting with a devotion in which he summarised the source of hope that united the participants at the European Vision Meeting: “Hope is not a strategy, it’s a person – Jesus Christ.”
Johannes described how SAT-7’s ministry is enabling children and young people to “dare to dream of a better future”. He said that it was particularly touching to hear the stories of children and young people who were meeting Jesus through SAT-7 and how this was “filling their lives with meaning”.
The European Vision Meeting heard from other Partners about their connection with SAT-7. Iiro Pankakoski from the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission described the two ministries’ shared values: “SAT-7 spreads the Gospel, teaching both Christians and all peoples about our shared faith, which is the cornerstone of how we live our life and everything we do.
“SAT-7 also very much cares about deeply changing societies, fighting for children’s rights, building bridges between different communities, giving a voice to the voiceless, working with people on the margins. SAT-7’s programs are made for and by Christians in the region, giving people in the MENA a voice and hope for a better future as well.”
Also in attendance at the European Vision Meeting were Sara Gotfredsen from the Human Rights office at the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mark von Riedemann from Aid to the Church in Need, Dr Ehab Galal from the University of Copenhagen, and the directors of CKU and DIGNI, which oversee international projects sponsored by the Danish and Norwegian governments respectively.
Kurt Johansen, Executive Director of SAT-7 Europe and Asia, said it was a great honour to unite SAT-7 Partners with leaders from other faith-based organisations and experts on the MENA region at the European Vision Meeting. “We may come from very different backgrounds,” he said. “But we share the same passion for the region. Working with others like this keeps SAT-7 vibrant and relevant.”
 YES is implemented by SAT-7’s Cairo studio and is supported by Norad via Digni and SAT-7’s partner the Norwegian Mission Society.
 LOS is implemented by SAT-7’s Lebanon studio in partnership with the Lebanese Bible Society and Humanship. It is supported through the Centre for Church-based Development and SAT-7’s partner the Danish Bible Society.